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Death of a Dutchman by Magdalen Nabb

Death of a Dutchman (1983)

by Magdalen Nabb

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Well, it's a really good thing I didn't read this first book before I read others in the series, or else I just might have never read another book in this series at all.

TMI...TMD.....on & on & on....blah, blah, blah, blah..... It was awful, just plain torturous! Not to mention that the character who was a main part of the plot, Signora Gusti, as a self-centered, self-serving, nasty, manipulative, Old Witch!

Once again, this centers around family and family relationships or lack thereof..... ( )
  Auntie-Nanuuq | Jan 18, 2016 |
When Magdalen Nabb died in August 2007, she left us with a dozen pieces of delightful brain candy: the Marshal Guarnaccia crime novels.

The Marshal is a low-level law enforcement officer in Florence. He doesn’t consider himself very bright—indeed, he thinks of himself as a consummate bumbler—but that’s precisely his strength, his lack of ego. Because he doesn’t jump to conclusions, as do his superiors who warrant their own intelligence, the Marshal is able to ask the questions that crack the case.

In Death of a Dutchman, the second Guarnaccia novel, a Dutch jewel dealer turns up dead in a flat in Florence. The Marshal’s superiors write the death off as an obvious suicide, but there’s nothing obvious about the case to the Marshal. To the contrary, he wonders at all the loose ends and partial clues that point not to suicide but to murder.

And who is the mysterious woman last seen with the Dutchman? As the Marshal follows this woman around the city of Florence, we are wrapped in what Nabb does best: drawing characters out of everything, people, buildings, parks. With a few deft strokes, she brings the city and its throng of people alive.

It’s a hot and muggy summer in Florence, and the twists of the case build as the Marshal pursues the woman through the twisting allies and crowded plazas. As a thunderstorm gathers on the surrounding hillside, illumination dawns on the Marshal, and the psychological depravity of the murder case cracks open.

Nabb’s lean and elegant prose doesn’t rely on flash and bling for excitement. She told stories the old fashioned way, by constructing an intricate plot and then letting it tighten its noose around the reader’s neck as the pages turn. Originally published in 1982, Death of a Dutchman has long been out of print. Kudos to Soho Crime for bringing back the series. Anyone who enjoys a sophisticated, literary crime story will love Nabb’s Marshal Guarnaccia series.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book. ( )
1 vote funkendub | Oct 4, 2010 |
Perhaps if this wasn't the first Marshal Guarnaccia book I read, I'd compare it to others Magdalen Nabb has written (a dozen, so far). But as a first-time reader, I kept thinking about Simenon's Inspector Maigret, and so, using that as a template: The scenic environs--Florence here, rather than Paris; Italy, not France--provide a similar kind of pleasure; a trip abroad to a different culture. And with similarly intense protagonists. The reader can feel confident that no matter the mystery, both the Chief Inspector and the Marshal, with their dedication to duty and their native acuity, will inevitably solve the crime.

But the Marshal is just a notch above those he can dispatch within the Pitti station (despite the authoritative capped M), and is lower on the police pecking order than the Lieutenant, the Magistrate, and other capped officials in the Italian police bureaucracy. Unlike Inspector Maigret, in his roost at Quai des Orfevres (headquarters, not a mere police station), there's a self-effacing quality to the Marshal. In fact, he's in Florence from the South (earning money to send home), and so the reader gets a taste of the Italian North-South dichotomy. It's thus fitting that unlike Maigret, he is not supremely self-confident, but rather, self-effacing, often doubting his own abilities.

The writing is good, with a smooth flow from description to dialogue, from recollected past to physical present. And both authors present, through their protagonists, a keen observation of details. What for me most separates Simenon and Nabb--though admittedly I'm contrasting this one book to the dozens of Maigrets I've read--is the intricacy of the mysteries themselves. Simenon is less interested in the unraveling than in his characters, and though this leads to an occasionally flaccid story, it gives him more leeway for psychological exploration. Nabb sticks closer to the objective details, and dwells less on motive. ( )
1 vote copyedit52 | Nov 24, 2008 |
It is hot in Florence. Marshal Guarnaccia is pounding the pavements, checking hotels for terrorists on the government's blue list (even though this book was first published in 1982!). Almost by accident he responds to a call from a 91-year-old cranky woman and the two of them discover a dying man next door.

The best part of the book is the humanity of the Marshal and his relationship with the young men who live and work with him at the Station. The plot, the motive for the murder are a little convoluted and yet it was obvious to me early on Who Done It, and I got a little impatient with the investigators for taking so long to figure it all out. Also, I anticipated a tragic subplot, but I had no idea how that would play out, and when it did, I was moved more than I expected to be.

Nabb's writing is wonderful, but I don't believe this will be her most memorable book. ( )
  panamacoffee | Nov 29, 2007 |
The 2nd book in the Marshall Guarnaccia series, set in Florence.

The plodding beginning is set in a torridly hot period of time in Florence. Among reports of an Instamatic camera stolen in Pisa and various Fiat 500s, the Marshall responds to a call from a 91 year old woman about a potential problem in the flat next door. This turns out to be the death of a "Dutchman"--so-called because his father was Dutch, even though his mother was Italian, and the boy was born and raised in Florence. The death is considered a suicide, except that there are certain anomalies that bother the Marshall, who quietly begins to investigate on his own.

The pace picks up considerably in the middle of the book and in the last third, becomes a real page turner. The plot is excellent; the subplot involving Digos, the secret police, is not very prominent in the story but becomes well-integrated into the main plot line.

Nabb slowly and carefully develops a fascinating plot that is typical of the series; a series of seemingly unimportant details but loose ends in a satisfyingly complicated plot: the marshal himself, an inarticulate man who, once he fully engages in a case hangs on like a bulldog; a cast of lively, well-drawn characters; quiet, understated but highly effective writing; and a marvelous evocation of Florence itself—the Florence of its residents, not of tourists.

An excellent book. Highly recommended. ( )
  Joycepa | Jul 16, 2007 |
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'Signora Giusti!' protested Lorenzini, holding the receiver away from his ear and throwing open his free hand in despair.
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The latest crime novel to feature Marshal Guarnaccia of the Florence police. The suicide of a Dutch jeweller looked like an open and shut case. Certainly there were some discrepancies But the only witnesses were a blind man, and an old woman given to vicious lying.… (more)

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