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by Magdalen Nabb
Soho, June 2008
272 pages
ISBN: 1569474931

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When Daniela Paoletti’s body is discovered by her younger sister, Silvana, Marshal Guarnaccia is called to the scene by one of the neighbors rather than by a duty officer. Guarnaccia gets a crime scene set up and tries to stay out of the way until the prosecutor arrives. In Italy, the prosecutor takes a very active role in all investigations and has the ability to have cases taken away from police officers. When the prosecutor arrives, Guarnaccia is ready for trouble. Fulivo De Vita and Guarnaccia had worked on cases together in the past and their opinions and working methods are very different; in truth Guarnaccia views him almost as an enemy. Surprisingly De Vita wants Guarnaccia to remain on the case.

Daniela was a somewhat secretive woman who was raising her son at her parents’ house. Silvana claims that Daniela did not allow her family to be close to her even though she relied on the family for childcare. Daniela’s mother is described as ‘ill’; but is in fact an alcoholic. By using his contacts, Guarnaccia discovers that Signor Paoletti is in the hospital recovering from an illness. Meanwhile gossip connects Paoletti to an intentional sex trade. He helps bring in illegal immigrants and uses the more attractive ones in his strip club. The less attractive women are given more legitimate jobs as servants. Rumors and gossip of this type cloud the investigation and Guarnaccia’s opinions of the case.

De Vita refuses to allow Guarnaccia to investigate this hearsay but instead wants him to focus on Daniela’s boyfriend. As most murders are due to domestic violence, the father of Daniela’s child would make the perfect suspect. Guarnaccia seems to follow these instructions but instead investigates Paoletti’s past as a pimp and his current business practices. As Guarnaccia is more interested in truth and justice than his own career, he makes several decisions that threaten his livelihood. Only by taking risks and investigating the criminal classes will Guarnaccia be able to find Daniela’s killer.

Marshal Guarnaccia is not a typical detective. He is rather melancholy and frequently makes himself feel depressed. He seems happiest when spending time with his wife and family but is frequently separated from them due to family illness, caring for aging family members and his own postings. He suffers from an eye disease that forces him to wear dark glasses in all but the dimmest light. These sunglasses allow him to have a barrier between himself and his suspects; this barrier both protects him and isolates him. Ultimately Guarnaccia has a problem connecting to others even though he is a police officer and constantly dealing with the public. I do not necessarily find him an appealing character yet I appreciate the fact that he always goes after the truth regardless of the consequences.

VITA NUOVA is the fourteenth and last book in the Marshal Guarnaccia series. This book is published posthumously.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, May 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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