Deborah Moulton's Reviews > Doctored Evidence

Doctored Evidence by Donna Leon
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's review
Mar 06, 2010

really liked it
Read from March 02 to 04, 2010

This book was essentially a meditation on greed and pride. One old woman's greed meets a man who has lied about his education to attain a high position. The result is blackmail and finally, murder. Brunetti makes it interesting by injecting his ruminations from his close reading of the ancient greeks about power into the case. Then he adds his examination of the seven deadly sins from his daughter's Catholic catechism books. Modern life has rendered many of the deadly sins acceptable or at least not remarkable.

As usual, the cultural perspective built into the Brunetti books remains fascinating. His assumption that things don't work, don't get done, don't get punished is at odds with his interactions with Northern Europeans who believe in the authority of the law and one's duty to it and society.

Then there is his confusion in reading his subordinate with whom he has forged a bond of trust over decades: in some situations, he knows to go with "tu", the familiar address; in others, he struggles with whether the more formal "Lei" is more appropriate. As an American, it is inconceivable that one would even think about using a formal form of address for someone we like and have worked with for decades.

The appeal of this detective series, like Henning Mankell (Sweden) and Karin Fossum (Norway, is in the cultural knowledge that is exhibited and passed on in the telling of the story. They're like cultural ambassadors to how people in another country think and act. What are the societal norms and how are they expressed. The murder story is merely the vehicle.

I deeply appreciate the cultural conversation that these authors bring to their stories. The fact that they are in a series allows the cultural insights to seep in and take hold. If it were a single book, you wouldn't have the deeper sense of beginning to see and think the way these different societies do.

I wonder if the "great American novel," is merely this: a book that clearly and skillfully details what it means to be American. How we think. What we do. The rules by which we navigate our culture and how we do/do not fit in.

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