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The Monster of Florence by Magdalen Nabb

The Monster of Florence (1996)

by Magdalen Nabb

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This review is for the audio version, read by David Colacci, which was very well done. That being said, however, I have two issues with the audio version. First, Colacci does an excellent job, but as he is the narrator for Donna Leon's series based in Venice it was not uncommon to for me to be anticipating a Commissario Brunetti response when this was from the Marshal Guarnaccia series. The second issue w/ the audio version is that it was pretty hard to keep all of the characters straight. Because of my disability it is hard for me to physically hold books and this is the only book in the series that my library has in audio. As w/ the Leon series, which I love, the Italian atmosphere is captivating for me, and the protagonist is appealing so I think I will put other books in the series on my possible “to read on Kindle” list.

My other response (warning?) is that parts are pretty gruesome. And when you are listening you can’t skim text like you can in a book. ( )
  zoomball | Apr 29, 2014 |
10th in the Marshal Guarnaccia series set in Florence, Italy.

While most of the plots in Magdalen Nabb’s superb series are based on real-life crimes, The Monster of Florence is unusual in that, in a special introductory note, Nabb asserts that while the book is fiction, the story is based on 7 real-life double homicides that took place in The Florence area between 1968 and 1985; the facts pertaining to the cases are true, although nothing else—the characters, the investigation—is.

What follows is almost formulaic Nabb—Guarnaccia is volunteered to the team in a reopening of the investigation of these double homicides by Captain Maestrangelo. Guarnaccia, instead of seeing this as a compliment, views it as proof that he is not needed and not valued by his superior officer—a view only Guarnaccia holds. The reason for his demoralized opinion is that Guarnaccia knows—as does every other officer on the investigation—that the reopening of the cases is politically motivated by the ambitions of the Prosecutor who is heading up the investigating team; no one expects much to come of the investigation.

Complicatin Guarnaccia’s life is the request of an old acquaintance, Marco Landini, to help out in determining the authenticity of a painting Landini has inherited from a hated father; Guarnaccia promises to encourage an important restorer in Florence to meet with Landini. Since nothing is ever simple in the life of any Florentine, this rather innocent request has layers of implications behind it.

These two threads—plot and subplot—are intertwined throughout the story of trying to resolve very cold cases. The work is tedious, as is true in most police investigations, and baffling due to the age of the cases and the lack of leads or suspects. One man is singled out, but everyone on the team suspects that The Suspect is really being railroaded for the political benefit of the head of the team. Guarnaccia, uncharacteristically, finds himself staying up until all hours reading material on serial killers.

This is not a fast-paced book, but it is still an interesting one in the look it takes at the Italian justice system, at least as it is practiced in Florence. While that has always been a part of every book, it is highlighted in this one.

The denouement of the book is completely unexpected.

Not Nabb’s usual style, The Monster of Florence still has all of the elements that make this series so superior—excellent writing, usual and intriguing plots, and, above all, outstanding characterizations. Guarnaccia is a totally atypical protagonist for a police procedural—nothing hard-boiled or sexy about the overweight, inarticulate marshal who is content with the day-to-day small happenings in his Quarter. Yet Nabb has managed to fashion an utterly enthralling series around this unlikely, modest character. The Monster of Florence is yet another reason to follow this series.

Highly recommended. ( )
  Joycepa | Oct 4, 2008 |
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It was so dark in the cathedral square on that November Saturday evening that it seemed that it should certainly be cold.
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This is the story of a police marshal in corrupt Florence who uncovers a case where the wrong man has been accused. But, like the art world which surrounds him, nobody wants to know the truth about a fake.

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