Saturday, August 17, 2013
The Monster of Florence: Review Copy
Synopsis from the Review Request Email: Magdalen Nabb’s final masterwork of fiction follows the reopening of a cold case—a serial killer who targeted unmarried couples and terrorized Florence for two decades. A spare, unflinching procedural, The Monster of Florence showcases Nabb's trademark subtlety and cut-to-the-bone literary style.
Marshal Guarnaccia's job with the carabinieri—the local Florentine police—usually involves restoring stolen handbags to grateful old ladies and lost cameras to bewildered tourists. So when he is assigned to work with the police in trying to track down a vicious serial killer, he feels out of his league. To make matters worse, the Proc he must report to is Simonetti, the same man he knows drove an innocent man to suicide several years earlier in his blind quest for a conviction. The Marshal can't let the stress of the case get to him if he wants to make sure justice is upheld.
My Take: I'm afraid this was a rather disappointing read. I had read Magdalen Nabb's Death of an Englishman two years ago and found it to be a very pleasant read. Nabb is very strong on her descriptions of Italy and her characterizations. My quibble on the first book was that Marshal Guarnaccia spent most of the book in bed with the flu. Having odd dreams brought on by fever. Most of the actual police work was done by The Captain and Carabiniere Bacci working with their British counterparts from Scotland Yard and I really didn't feel like the reader got to know the Marshall as a detective.
My hopes for The Monster of Florence were that I would get to see the Marshal at work and really like his character. Other reviewers on GoodReads have likened the Marshal to Columbo. I'd say that the Marshal doesn't even have the confidence of Columbo. He has no self-confidence whatsoever--even though he is obviously a much better detective (and far more dedicated to the truth than some of his counterparts and superiors). He is a likeable character in a Droopy, the cartoon dog, sort of way. He's so self-conscious you kind of have to like him. This is the good part.
Unfortunately, this book reads like some mash-up of a book originally written in Italian and poorly translated into English (awkward wording, for example, and very odd flow) with portions that are straight British (with British idioms and references). Since I have read the uncorrected proofs, I am hoping that some of this may be fixed with copy-editing. There is a whole secondary plot involving the Marshal's young friend Marco and a painting that Marco's father left him when he died. It is up for debate whether the painting is a valuable work by a famous artist, a clever forgery, or a mean-spirited joke by the father on a son he never really cared for. This plot was the lead-off in the story.....but throughout the book it only pops up intermittently and really, as far as I'm concerned, doesn't add much to the story as a whole. At one point, it looks like the Marshall (as well as Nabb, author) has forgotten about poor Marco for good.
And, as far as the headliner--The Monster--goes, there isn't a lot of real detective work going on here. We have the Marshal talking to himself and once again having odd dreams (and daydreams) about the case. I thought the dreams were flu-induced in the first book--apparently this is a prime feature of the Marshal's character. The rest of the "investigation" consists of the lead Prosecutor Simonetti giving pompous lectures full of information that's supposed to make the six special investigators (including Guarnaccia) believe that the chosen Suspect (who is referred to in capital letters throughout the book) is really the man they want. When Simonetti is not lecturing, we are reading incomprehensible reports along with the Marshal. Guarnaccia and Ferrini, another officer who thinks the Prosecutor is just looking for a fall guy, do a bit of investigative work on their own--but it almost feels out of place with the general procedures. I finally made it to the end and the thing is so confusing that I have no idea who the Marshal finally decided did it. We certainly didn't arrest the right person--at least, I don't think we did. Two stars--primarily for description and characters.
[Disclaimer: My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate...This review copy was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments are entirely my own honest opinion.]