Thursday, July 27, 2017

Some Bitter Taste by Magdeline Nabb

First Sentence:  The young man, Gjergj, just disappeared.
An elderly woman believes a stranger has been in her apartment and asks Marshal Guarnaccia to visit her.  Another case of a wealthy expatriate interferes.  When he does, he discovers she has been murdered.  The two cases involving the past, as well as Albanian and Jewish refugees, causes Guarnaccia to question his own judgment.
For places we’ve not been, one tends to think of the idealized version of them.  Nabb quickly dispels that image of Florence—“There were no words to describe Florence in July.  … Breathing the same soup of evaporating river, car fumes, sweat, and drains day after day made you long to stay indoors where it was cool and clean.”
Nabb gives one a real sense of the marshal.  Without going into specific details, we know how he looks, as well as how he deals with, and is regarded by others.  The types of complaints handled by the marshal seem universal. One also gets a look at his home life—“She held his head and looked down into his big, mournful eyes. ‘What is it, Salva?...’ As long as she kept hold of him and he could feel the vibrations of her voice it was all right.’.  It’s nice to have him referenced as Salva—one assumes short for Salvatore—by his wife, rather than always by his rank. That he is so self-deprecating—‘He’s too clever for me.’  The captain sat back in his chair and looked hard at the marshal.  ‘The prosecutor doesn’t think so, as I said.’  The marshal wanted to say, ‘You shouldn’t give the wrong idea about me, get up people’s hopes. It’s not right’--, while everyone else sees his skill and worth, is both interesting and rather unique.
Although it appears there are two separate cases, the commonalities and the way in which Nabb finally weaves them together is so well done.  While his superiors deal with the procedural aspects of the cases, Guarnaccia follows the actual clues. More than that, however, is his ability to what lies behind the images people present.
Some Bitter Taste” is a true mystery, rather than a book of high action.  It’s a story of flawed people.  The ending is a bit sad, but it’s real.

 SOME BITTER TASTE (Pol Proc- Marshal Guarnaccia-Florence, Italy-Contemp) – Good
      Nabb, Magdeline – 12th in series
      Soho Press – October 2002

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