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Shows the author's potential and his ego
on 9 July 2015
This was the first book in a series book about an Italian detective written by an ex-Italian detective and, to be honest, it is difficult to disentangle the author and the character of Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrera, Head of the city’s Squadra Mobile. Certainly the former is not lacking in self-confidence.
The book is set in Florence and involves a serial killer. Both Giuttari and Ferrera were at the centre of investigations into the infamous ‘Monster of Florence’ that established their reputations in the eyes of the public and the media.
As is the case in any of the numerous books about serial killers, there is a great deal of violence since the killer does not only murder but mutilates. But what may disturb readers even more is the attitude towards gays and women.
Giuttari is not a polished novelist and his characterisation is perfunctory - especially of the females; we know little more about Ferrara’s German wife, Petra, or any of the other central characters at the end than we do in the first 50 or so pages. Ferrara is rather better presented, probably because of his closeness to how the author would like to be seen and he is certainly less inward-looking than other Italian detectives.
Identifying the killer is not really a challenge for the reader and there is little to establish the Florentine location apart from frequent mention of streets and buildings. The dialogue is rather unwieldy and varies little between characters [seeking to motivate his flagging colleagues, Ferrara tells them ‘There's never time to concentrate on one thing, there's always something else to do. But we don't give up. Unsolved cases should never be closed. They should always stay with you, somewhere at the back of your mind. Sometimes a clue turns up out of nowhere after months or years, and you'd better be ready to grab it when it does. And anyway, the city is sorry he died, even if it doesn't know it. It's important to remember that deep down, Florence is scared. Because whatever you think of the case, there's still a killer at large.’]. Overall, Giuttari cannot be compared with the writing of Donna Leon, Michael Dibdin or Andrea Camilleri, to name but three, but it would be wrong to condemn him after just this first book.
I am not in a position to comment on the genuinely English translation by Howard Curtis and the extent to which additional text has been inserted. However, within its own terms it is quite a gripping read and the author did surprise me with one of his twists.
The Catholic Church and the Mafia are involved in the plotting an there is mention of good food and wine, opera, literature and art history [although this does not justify repetition of the qualifier ‘the famous Spanish artist’ each time that Valasquez is mentioned, as if to differentiate him from his painter/decorator nephew].
The plot is rather creaky but the reader is drawn into the investigation, which seems to progress in fits and starts despite the resources employed, through the murderer’s animosity towards Ferrara that is demonstrated through the sending of taunting messages. One detects the author’s frustration showing as he describes the tensions and jealousies that exist between Ferrara and the public prosecutors, all of whom are keen to capture the public eye.
I will probably read another book in the series in the hope that some of the above criticisms simply reflect the lack of experience of a debut author.