The Innocent by Magdalen Nabb (Book Review)
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Set in Florence
(Toscana)
 © 2005
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Magdalen Nabb

The Marshal Guarnaccia Mystery Series

The Innocent


BOOK REVIEW

Magdalen Nabb’s 13th Marshal Guarnaccia novel THE INNOCENT is the latest episode in her venerable crime series that has been going strong for over two decades. Her two leading characters are her persistent carabinieri NCO, Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia, and her beloved adopted city, Florence.

The story begins with the discovery of a women’s body in an out-of-the-way pool in the Boboli Gardens, the expansive park next to the Pitti Palace. This is literally in the good Marshal’s back yard since his carabinieri offices and barracks are in a wing of the Pitti Palace. This crime has the usual challenges--identify the victim; determine whether the death was accidental or murder; identify possible motives; look for suspects; and find and arrest the killer.

When you read one of Ms. Nabb’s novels, you also embark on a wonderful tour of Florence. She always gives special emphasis to the seasons--this one takes place in springtime, late May-early June. The locale is an artisan’s quarter in a tiny piazza without a name. This tiny square was formed at the end of World War II, when the retreating German army bombed all the approaches to the Ponte Vecchio, thus making it unnecessary to destroy the historic bridge. Clues lead Guarnaccia to this artisan’s quarter where we get wonderful insights into the plight of these artisans and the sustainability of their crafts in the 21st century. We get to know the shoemaker, the furniture restorer, and the local restaurant owner who caters to the workers instead of the tourists. Their apprentices are no longer the young upwardly mobile Italians, but foreigners from as far away as Japan.

Ms. Nabb is unique in featuring the carabinieri in her books--and not the state police favored by her colleagues like Donna Leon and Michael Dibdin. Unlike Commissario Guido Brunetti or Inspector Aurelio Zen, Marshal Guarnaccia has a close day-to-day relationship with the people in his neighborhood jurisdiction. So when a murder occurs, he has already established a sense of trust with them, and this always helps in the solution of the crime. In this book, we get an insight into Guarnaccia’s relationship with the young carabinieri recruits he commands; and his relationship with his two teenage sons. Typically he feels inadequate in both tasks!

This wonderful novel is a social commentary on modern day Italy as well as an entertaining crime story.

Carlo Vennarucci - June, 2005


JACKET NOTES: It is spring in Florence and everyone around Marshal Guarnaccia seems to be in love, even his own son. The case he is working on, the murder of a young woman, seems to present no particular problems. No distressed parents, no political or influential connections, no pressure from the media. The investigation takes him only a few steps from home, to the Boboli gardens and to the artisans' quarter - where he knows everybody and everybody knows him. The locals also trust him - until he seems to be accusing one of them...

Then everything changes. A second death follows and Guarnaccia is convinced that it is his fault. The case becomes one of the most distressing he's ever had to handle. Burdened with guilt, he finds it impossible to trust his own instincts any more...But he has to learn to do so before he can get at the truth...
(© Willian Heinemann)