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on 18 June 2017
Did not think it excellent but enjoyed reading this book, will read more from this author as soon as I can find time
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on 31 March 2017
Enjoyable read -
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on 8 December 2015
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on 12 April 2016
I am a big fan of Italian based crime fiction so it was great to come across another writer. This is his first novel in the Michele Ferrara series. Whilst good enough to satisfy my inglese italianato diavolo incarnato tendencies, it shows a lack of experience in the writing. However, having read most of the rest, his skills improve and I am looking forward to reading Death Under a Tuscan Sun.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 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.
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A fictional novel written by a real-life police chief, A Florentine Death would appear to have all the elements for an explosive exposé of Italian society's complex and uneasy mix of religion, crime, politics and cover-ups, but sadly the author, whether through prudence or just lack of literary ability, is unable to make much of it. The writing is amateurish, the dialogue unconvincing - I don't think you can blame the translator in this case - and the tone is horribly self-important throughout. Even more self-regarding is the plot of a serial killer who has hatched an elaborate series of murders of homosexuals which - as the literate riddles he sends to Ferrara indicate - he intends to crown with the death of the Florence Chief of Police himself.

The least you could expect from Giuttari is an insider's knowledge of the reality of crime investigation and the political wrangling that goes on around it, but the workings of the police hierarchy are superficially dealt with (perhaps for fear of upsetting any real people in these positions?), and there is little sense of urgency evident from the authorities as the serial killer works his way through each of the killings he has promised. The characterisation is poor throughout, and even though the Chief of Police Michele Ferrara is clearly based on the author himself - even down to the physical appearance if the photograph on the cover is anything to go by - the main character never really comes to life on the page. Ferrara, we discover, smokes expensive cigars, likes good wine, good food and opera - nothing terribly distinctive or original there. There isn't too much mystery or suspense about the identity of the killer either, since his suspicious behaviour from his first appearance early in the novel marks him out immediately as the chief suspect, particularly since there is no other reason for him to be part of the story.

The impression given by the novel is that Giuttari has read 'Silence of The Lambs' and 'The DaVinci Code' and thought - "Well, I'm an expert and I've had to deal with the real thing - I could do better than that". He can't. Perhaps the novel has more interest in Italy through the fact of it being written by a famous police officer, but there's no reason to expect that this will carry any weight in the UK.
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VINE VOICEon 31 July 2007
There is little to recommend this novel and it is difficult to understand how it has managed to be published. Poor characterisation, stilted dialogue, an absence of suspense and mystery...need I continue. Having read a reasonably good review of the novel in a national newspaper I can only assume the reviewer had not actually bothered to read the book, relying instead on the marketing blurb. If you're looking for a good conspiracy theory then you may surely find one in the mystery of how this novel ever got published rather than within its covers. I gave up after a hundred or so pages...life's too short!
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on 28 July 2007
Well, I tried, I really did. I managed to get past the flat and cliché-ridden prose, the unconvincing dialogue, the very ordinary characters, and the fact that the lack of any descriptive talent was doing Florence no favours. Also a friend who managed to finish it had warned me that the lesbian character gets anally raped later on and enjoys it and that there's also some gratuitous Thomas Harris-style stuff, what with the gruesome torture implements and the man-eating wolves. I wasn't enjoying the book hugely but I was persevering. But then on page 107 the cops recover a Velazquez painting and our hero is impressed by how its eyes follow him around the room. I'm sorry but, as has been said before and often, life is too short.
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on 5 January 2017
This is the first in a series of crime novels about Chief Superintendent Michele Ferraraof the Florence police. It is gripping, and the whole series deserves to be better known in the English-speaking world. The translation is good, idiomatic and fluent. A great discovery.
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on 18 March 2010
This could be used in creative writing classes for years to come. The plot, structure, and characters are all perfectly fine, and believable. Probably because, like all newbies, it's largely autobiographical. So why do so many English speaking readers dislike it so much? Easy. The writing is awful. It's a perfect example of how bad writing kills an idea.

However, the main reason it should be unlearned by aspirant scribblers, is the dialogue. One may devote pages of description to a character, but if what comes out of their mouths is banality after doggerel, they simply cease to have any meaning or empathic resonance for or with the reader. I'm quite happy to blame the translator for all this, especially the pacing, or lack of it. Shame, could have been a belter. 3 stars in sympathy with the original author only. I wouldn't bother putting yourself though it. Read some Dibdin instead.
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