Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Florentine procedural

I'd been looking forward to Michele Guittari's A Florentine Death since I first hear of it some weeks ago, a police thriller by an actual detective, the head of Florence's Squadra Mobile and the uncoverer of at least part of the truth behind the famous Monster of Florence case. His first novel is set in Florence in the last stages of the Monster case, but the plot concerns a serial killer of a more literary sort. The book is fun, but a bit irritating--mostly because Giuttari is hardly as accomplished a writer as he is a detective. He is in parts reminiscent of Donna Leon and in parts reminiscent of (inevitably) Magdalen Nabb (particularly in the descriptions of Florentine street life). Giuttari sometimes narrates when he should dramatize, and there is some gratuitous sex (as well as some questionable portrayal of homosexuality of both gay and lesbian varieties). The novel reminds me more of some best-seller thrillers, in both positive and negative ways, than of the higher ranks of noir fiction (some cliches, some sensationalism, some too-easy plotting). And in a few spots, the character (obviously based to some degree on the author) is portrayed in a bit too glamorous terms to be taken too seriously (making the author seem a bit too pleased with himself). But the book is still fun to read, and a crime novel of Florence by a Florentine crime-fighter is irresistible. I'll wait anxiously for the next of Giuttari's novels to be translated, but also hope that he gets better at controlling his material.

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