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The Marshal at the Villa Torrini by Magdalen…

The Marshal at the Villa Torrini (1993)

by Magdalen Nabb

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Ninth in the Marshal Guarnaccia of Florence, Italy series.

The Marshal is not a happy man. While his sons are on a school skiing vacation, he decides to detoxify his liver and go on a diet. The Marshal, a large man who appreciates his food, is having “table withdrawal symptoms”, and is grumpy, alarming his new driver and has the rest of the carabinieri at the Pitti Palace raising their eyebrows and rolling their eyes.

The Marshal answers a call about a death at the Villa Torrini, located on the outskirts of Florence. An attractive Englishwoman, a successful writer, has been found dead in her bath, a seeming accident--yet there is no clue as to how she died, nothing but a small amount of water in her lungs, not enough for drowning. Her husband, Julian Forbes, lies in the next room, dead drunk. The Marshal, who takes an instant dislike to the husband, who, even after sobering up, shows every sign of guilt but there is no evidence to tie him to his wife’s death--only the Marshal’s intuition. He feels handicapped, however, in any investigation, sure that Forbes is far too clever for him, and will outwit him; he wants to turn the investigation over to Captain Maestrangelo or some other “educated" police officer, and does not understand why Maestrangelo and Substitute Prosecutor Fusarri (in a return engagement complete with cigars) have such faith in him.

This installment in the series depends for its impact not so much on the plot, which is very good, but on the human factors in the story line. Primary among these is the Marshal himself and his struggle with his diet. There is a hilarious scene when, while trying to read about the new legal system, he becomes so hungry after his meager, healthy dinner that he makes and eats four sandwiches--and suffers through the night for it. I laughed at loud at this scene, having done exactly the same thing myself (though not to the extent of four sausage sandwiches, however).

The other source is the events that led up to the death; revealed in a satisfying denouement, they are tragic, affecting the Marshal even more than usual.

An excellent story, depending far more on the players involved than on the police procedural part. Nabb’s understated writing and superb characterizations of the Marshal and his supporting cast of characters--his second in command Lorenzini, his young driver Fara, his wife Teresa, Captain Maestrangelo, and the ebullient substitute Prosecutor Fusarri within his blue cloud of cigar smoke--are excellent. It’s her usual fine job.

Highly recommended. ( )
  Joycepa | Jul 10, 2009 |
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"I suppose I might have pushed her.'
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When Marshal Guarnaccia of the Florence police goes to the Villa Torrini, he finds the lifeless body of a famous writer and her unconscious husband nearby. The Marshal knows the woman was murdered, but how can he prove it?
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