Michele Giuttari is a real-life Italian policeman, head of the Squadra Mobile for around 8 years in his own right, so it's not too much of a stretch to believe that his central protagonist, Michele Ferrara, is more than a little autobiographical. The author has allowed his character to be slightly quirky, but undoubtedly he is the hero of the piece, and given the cases that Giutarri investigated, including the Monster of Florence, the reader has to assume that some of the events aren't that far from real life as well.
As the bodies are found, seemingly pointlessly mutilated, we get to know Ferrara along the way. There is a very Italian feeling to these books, probably helped by sideways forays into the world of high opera and art, food and wine, to say nothing of the references to the architecture and layout of Florence. There is a strong sexual element to this book, and the plot itself is nicely complicated, but positioned firmly in something that seems oh so Italian - revenge. Whilst it's not that hard to pick the who, the how, and even take an educated guess at the why - the entire why is revealed late in the book, as the chase of the killer draws to its end.
There's not a lot of suspense in A FLORENTINE DEATH, and, on a few occasions, there is a slightly unpleasant worshipful tone around the central protagonist. The main clanger was some simply bizarre elements to the sexual assault of one of the female characters that could risk readers wanting to throw the book against a wall, but overall, somewhat unexpectedly, A FLORENTINE DEATH was still quite interesting. Even if you knew nothing of the author's background, there is a sense of reality about the way that the events are portrayed and there's a great sense of Florence and Italy about the book. The translation reads very smoothly in English, whilst still retaining a lovely feeling of an Italian lilt and sensibility.
A FLORENTINE DEATH is the first book by Michele Giuttari. The second, A DEATH IN TUSCANY, has recently been translated.
A VENETIAN RECKONING - Donna Leon
Rather than the normal method of being called out, Commisarrio Guido Brunetti learns of the death of prominent international lawyer Carlo Trevisan from the headlines in the newspaper the next day on the way to work.
What starts off as a baffling investigation of a seemingly blameless victim, turns into something altogether different as a suicide and another shooting see the death of a well-known Accountant, and then Trevisan's own brother-in-law. What is not immediately clear is why these three become victims.
Brunetti is desperate to find some clues about the victim's background and after finding his teenage daughter knows Trevisan's daughter, enlists her help in doing some digging into the background of the lawyer, despite his wife's firm objections.
A little flat in the early stages of the book, the plot of this book evolves slowly and can be a little predictable. To compensate there are some wonderful observations of the landscape and the nature of the Venetian people in particular.
This series is as much about Guido Brunetti, his family, his food and his wine as it is about Venetian life, crime and corruption. The only possible ongoing weakness in this series can be the frequent references to the corruption of Italian society, which although valid, can be repetitive. That is, however, a minor quibble.