The Marshall Makes His Report

By Magdalen Nabb

Marshall Salvatore Guarnaccia is at his best with ordinary people and their ordinary problems. That’s his job, after all. He likes it, and he likes doing his job in Florence. Which makes it a very frightening proposition to be investigating a murder (or a suicide) in the highest circles.

  • Author: Magdalen Nabb
  • Title: The Marshall Makes His Report
  • Pages: 223
  • Published: 1991
  • Publisher: HarperCollinsPublishers
  • ISBN: 0 00 232401 6

Or at least circles high enough to get him shipped off to some forsaken corner in the heel of Italy’s boot, to keep the peace amongst the sheep. The husband of the Marchesa Bianca Maria Corsi Ulderighi Della Loggia is found dead in his gun room. But he cannot have died there, so foul play is suspected. How utterly, unspeakably, despicably foul only becomes apparent around page 180.

Between the Marshall mysteries I reviewed earlier and this one, Magdalen Nabb has matured a lot as an author. This book is far more ambitious in its technical construction. The action is often interrupted by nightmares and dreams and streams of self-conciousness (and I mean that exactly as written). The book itself starts at the end, and then seamlessly moves into the past, and continues until it arrives at the end again, and then continues for a bit. If I read it right.

Possibly because of the rather inane typography by HarperCollinsPublishers (who, in 1991, already were hep to the IT industries preferences for silly CaPitaLisation and Italisation), or because Magdalen Nabb bit of a bit more than she could chew, technically, or just because I’ve got the flu and am as fuzzy-brained as a small furry creature from Alpha-Centauri, I found the technically advanced bits more distracting than helpful in building atmosphere.

Which is a bit of a pity, since this book is chock-full of interesting people, people I really cared about. The murder of ___ is intensely sad and made me miserable; but the appearance of little Fiorenza gave a lot of hope for the future.

As always, Magdalen Nabb’s forte is in the description of these characters, each unique, and all touching a real chord &mdash coupled with the very strong and sensitive handling of the Marshal, this book is as much a psychological tour de force as a mystery novel. One to buy, definitely. The reviewed copy was a library book, but I want my own.

Some people will read it just for the descriptions of Florence, others for the descriptions of Florence food, and those are welcome bonuses, and certainly the description of the palazzo of the Marchese as seen by a bunch of tourists is very striking — but the main attraction remains the description of the people living there.