Death in Springtime by Magdalen Nabb.
The first I’ve read, this is the third novel in Nabb’s series of police procedurals set around Florence and featuring Marshal Guarnaccia. I was recommended this series by good blog-friend LizF who kindly sent me this one to get me started. Nabb, who died in 2007, wrote fourteen novels in the series which started back in 1981.
It’s March in Florence and snowing. With the unusual weather, no-one notices the abduction of two foreign language students. One is later released with a message for the girl’s parents, but won’t talk. The carabinieri suspect the Sardinian shepherds who live in the hills above the city, most local kidnappings are down to them, but they don’t have much information to go on. Leading the case is Captain Maestrangelo and his team, working with a new Prosecutor to get the girl back alive, before the girl’s father can pay the ransom. The Captain believes they’re dealing with amateurs this time, and that the girl will die unless they get to her first.
Although the Carabinieri are structured quite differently from our police, they go about finding the missing girl in much the same way – particularly in that there’s no substitute for local knowledge. Knowing your patch like the back of your hand, what goes on in it, and who does what is essential to their policework as the Marshal and other team members are well aware. Of the other characters, the young Carabiniere Bacci, proves very useful as an English speaker, teasing information out of the released girl; and the new prosecutor, whom the Captain always refers to as the Substitute, is a lively sort who brings a little cheer to this rather serious novel. The Marshal is, this time, a supporting character to the double-act of the Captain and the Substitute, but from his few appearances, you know you will like him – an older policeman with the intuition of experience. What is most surprising is the poverty that the Sardinians live in up there, no wonder the sons grow up wanting to get out of this close-knit community and choose crime as an easy route to money.
We see little of tourists’ Florence in this novel, the city locations are mostly those of workers, as are those in the hillsides – no-one ever said a shepherd’s life was easy. The policework is thorough and solid, like the novel itself which is rather serious. We don’t learn anything about the policemen’s private lives here, it’s all about the case, unlike those of Donna Leon where Comissario Brunetti’s family co-star, and Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano where food and his girlfriend play second fiddle, along with their locations in both cases. I am definitely interested in reading more of the series though and in particular, getting to meet the Marshal properly. (7/10) I was given this book.