Doctored Evidence by Donna Leon: A review

I haven't visited Venice and the Brunetti family for a while, so let's hop a vaporetto and check out what the good Commissario Brunetti is up to.

Well, it seems he's up to the same old thing - fighting the good fight (usually a losing fight) against the endemic corruption in Venetian and Italian society. This is the thirteenth in Donna Leon's popular series and it was published in 2004, so we are slowly getting closer to the current day.

The case that is drawing Brunetti's attention this time around is the brutal murder of an old woman in her apartment. The murder had happened a few weeks before and had been quickly "solved" by the odious Lieutenant Scarpa. It was determined that the woman's Romanian carer had killed her and then she herself had been killed when struck by a train while fleeing police. Brunetti's fatuous superior, Patta, is, of course, delighted with the quick result.

Then a neighbor who has been out of the country contacts the police to provide an alibi for the Romanian. She knows that she could not possibly have killed her employer. Scarpa is not happy and doesn't want to hear it, so he passes her off to Brunetti. Brunetti listens to her story and believes her. He decides to investigate but will have to do it on the sly since Patta considers the case closed.

He soon learns that the woman was universally despised and there are any number of people who might have wanted to kill her. As he and Vianello and Signorina Elettra dig into the background and finances of the victim, searching for a possible motive, they find several bank accounts with a substantial sum of money. Money is always a good motive, but Brunetti suspects something more personal and keeps digging.

While he digs, of course, he still goes home for lunch and dinner each day, prepared by his gourmet cook wife, Paola, and enjoys his meals with her and their son and daughter, now teenagers. The family's interactions around the dinner table are always some of the best moments of these books. His conversations with his wife keep him grounded and give him and the reader a lot to think about - in this case, it's the Seven Deadly Sins!

Maybe the deadliest sin of all is pride and the fear of being shamed. It's the cause of much misery in the world.

The play on words behind the title of the book becomes clear near the end and brings a smile. Clever plotting and a quick and undemanding read.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars   


  1. I have been slowly reading Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West. (It is very long and dense so will take me a while.) What struck me when I read your review is that for centuries Venice and Italy were predatory when it came to the Balkans, so this corruption that you say Brunetti fights against is no recent thing! At reading group yesterday one of the members (who is a fantastic cook) announced that she has told her family she is no longer cooking for them (husband and teenage daughter) because they never show up for dinner!

    1. Yes, as Leon describes it, the corruption is endemic and well-entrenched. If I had someone - especially a "fantastic cook" - to cook for me, I would definitely show up! Just as Guido Brunetti does. He has his priorities right.

  2. I love clever surprises like that, how you think going in that the title means one thing but by the end you see it means another. Happy Reading!

    1. It's always fun when the writer is able to pull it off.


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