A romp around Florence By Marshal Guarnaccia
A few months ago I was reading a magazine about Italy and came across an article about a writer, Magdalen Nabb, the author of a series of mysteries set in Florence, who had recently died of a stroke at the age of only 60. I was not familiar with her work, but I like mysteries set in interesting locations, so I thought I would give her a try.
I ordered the series, reading Death of a Dutchman, the one I thought was the first. Turns out it is the second in the series, but it didn't matter.
I have since read Death of an Englishman, the first, and will carry on with the whole series.
My husband read Death of a Dutchman before I did and said it reminded him very much of Georges Simenon's Maigret novels.
On doing some research about Magdalen Nabb, I discovered that in fact that Magdalen Nabb was a fan of Georges Simenon.
On reading her fist novel, Simeon wrote to her "My dear fellow-writer and friend, it is so good to walk with you through the animated streets of Florence, with its carabinieri, its ordinary people, its little trattorie and even its noisy tourists.
It's all so alive, you can hear the noises, smell the smells, see that morning mist on the fast flowing Arno..."
Born in England
Magdalen Nabb was born in England, married young and had one son. She trained as a potter and worked as one in Florence when she first arrived there, having left her marriage in 1975.
She made Florence her home and eventually began to write mystery novels featuring Marshal Guarnaccia of the Carabinieri.
She describes Florence, as "a very secret city. Walk down any residential street and you have no idea what is going on behind those blank walls. It's a problem the Marshal comes up against all the time."
She is said to have composed her novels completely in her mind before beginning to write.
She also visited the Carabinieri headquarters regularly as part of her very detailed research for each novel.
Marshal Guarnaccia, our detective, is actually, at least in the beginning, a lowly policeman, not an educated officer.
Marshal is a country boy from Sicily and he is responsible for fairly menial jobs, such as checking the hotel registers for the proper recording of passports - and the theft of tourists’ Instamatic cameras (the year is 1982).
In Death of A Dutchman, we find Marshal alone in Florence, his wife is in Sicily with their two young sons caring for the Marshal's elderly mother.
Marshal misses them terribly, but it leaves him free to succumb to his obsession about the cause of the death of a Dutchman who had grown up in Florence.
As Marshal investigates this murder – which is not officially being considered a murder – he feels all the while inadequate, that he, an uneducated foot policeman, is not capable of solving such a crime.
Marshal is though, a man who observes and is able to see that there are inconsistencies – too many little things – perhaps unimportant, but bothersome, that convince him that he is correct in thinking this is murder.
He is ultimately able to convince his superior officer that it is so.
We have a lovely romp around the city of Florence as we go along with Marshal, following suspects through the Boboli Gardens, into the Piazza di Pitti, the Piazza di Santo Spirito and across the Ponte Vecchio. Georges Simenon brought Paris alive with his Maigret novels, as Magdalen Nabb does Florence with Marshal Guarnaccia.
Like Maigret, Marshal Guarnaccia is a thoughtful man, a family man; unlike so many of our modern detectives, he does not have an addiction, obsession with the past or introspective melancholy.
He gets on with the job at hand and takes the reader right along with him.