Soho, 2003, 12.00, 223 pp.
Marshal Guarnacci of the Pitti Palace Carabinieri Station was with his wife when he first met the crazy woman, Clementina, while she brawled with some guy apparently over feeding pigeons. Everyone in the working class neighborhood knows the former mental patient and many take turns feeding her.
Not long after meeting Clementina, the Marshal receives a call from bar owner Gianfranco Cini informing him that he and others broke into the room of the Crazy Woman to find Clementina dead in what looked like an amateur killer poorly trying to make it seem like suicide. Upon seeing the crime scene the Marshal knows a homicide occurred, but Clementina had nothing to offer anyone as she depended on others to survive. Guarnacci makes inquiries but seems to be going nowhere as he is constantly reminded by the Prosecutor. Still in his methodical manner, the Marshal begins finding connections to and from the victim not as visible at first glance while working a myriad of sidebars for the locals.
The Marshal Guarnacci tales are strong Italian police procedurals that focus on the secondary characters much more than the investigation. Through the actions and reactions of the support cast, the audience obtains a deep understanding of the Marshal. This case is a powerhouse as the audience observes the intriguing social relationships of this working class neighborhood that enables the reader to appreciate the lead protagonist. Though a bit different as the action takes a secondary role to the players, Magdalen Nabb provides sub-genre fans with an engrossing novel.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner
It's hot in August in Florence. Most of the city's inhabitants flee for their annual coastal holidays, leaving the city almost a ghost town. Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia of the Italian Carabinieri is giving his wife a driving lesson when we meet him. So many shops are closed in Florence for holidays that it's necessary for her to travel near and far to do her shopping. Turning a corner into a quaint quarter, the Guarnaccias must stop for a street disturbance. A half-naked middle-aged woman is shaking her fist from her window at a crowd of her angry neighbors in the street below. The Marshal learns the woman is mad and these disturbances aren't unusual. Quelling the near riot, the Marshal meets several of the neighborhood merchants. A few days later the Marshal is called back to the neighborhood in his official capacity. The madwoman Clementina is dead on her kitchen floor, a victim of murder. While the chief prosecutor is ready to write off the murder as a burglary gone bad, the Marshal begins to probe into why someone would want this madwoman dead. Why does she seem to have no past? Why do some of the neighbors think she wasn't so very mad at all? These are some of the questions facing Marshal Guarnaccia.
Ms. Nabb is very good at evoking a sense of place. With her descriptions, Florence springs to life. The reader feels the heat, celebrates a rainfall, and sees the unrelenting sun pounding the narrow cobblestone streets. She is also good at characterization, creating likeable, realistic people in both the major and minor characters in the book. The mystery is simple but intriquing with a sensible conclusion. This is the sixth in a series. This book can be enjoyed by anyone, from cosy lovers to police procedural buffs. The violence is minimal with no graphic descriptions. I highly recommend this mystery.
This report prepared by Vicky Shultz