There are many reasons that crime fiction is so popular. We live in a chaotic and often troubling world, and for many readers there is a sense of relief in reading a story that ends with order being restored. Many crime novelists are masters of character, and they populate their fiction with people that we would like to meet and with whom we enjoy spending some time. Then there is the ability of some authors to take you to a new place and immerse you so deeply in the culture that finishing the novel feels like coming back from a long trip to a new and wonderful place, to which you want to return again and again. The best crime writers manage to do all of these things at the same time and also to tell an engaging and complex mystery story. Magdalen Nabb should be counted in this group.
Nabb wrote the Marshall Guarnaccia series, set in Florence, Italy, where she lived from 1975 until her death in 2007. At their heart, these are stories of a man trying to be a good father and husband, a thoughtful friend, and a conscientious public servant. If you are looking for fast-paced action Nabb’s novels will seem a bit slow. But neither should they be considered cozy mysteries. Nabb does not hesitate to explore the dark side of human nature in these stories. She does so, however, with wit, humor, and compassion.
In the first novel in the series, Death of an Englishman, Guarnaccia, a marshal in the Carabiniere, joins forces with two Scotland Yard detectives who have been sent to Florence to assist in the investigation into the shooting of a reclusive English ex-patriot living in the city. The interaction between the English and Italian officers is both believable and enjoyable, and the descriptions of Florence are a delight.
Fans of Georges Simenon’s Maigret mysteries, with their focus on the psychology of crime, as well as on food and drink, should find much to enjoy in Nabb’s stories.
Check the WRL catalog for Death of an Englishman