Once again employing the pared-down skills of a Simenon, Nabb’s 11th outing for Florence’s Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia demonstrates that the carabinieri’s best investigative technique is silence. Watching, waiting, and intuiting, he listens to edgy Caterina Brunamonti confess that her mother, the beautiful Contessa, a former international model and the widow of the late Count, was kidnapped ten days before, and that her migraine-prone brother Leonardo did not want to involve the police or the prosecutor’s office. Instead, they’ve turned to family lawyer Patrick Hines, who’s called in a private eye. But still the family’s had no contact with the kidnappers—or proof that the Contessa still lives. Narrowing the villains to two rival Tuscan bandits, the dreaded Salis and the despicable Puddu, Guarnaccia finds the Contessa’s car, her beaten doggy, and indications she’s been kept in a cave on Salis’s property—but suggestions as well that this scenario might be a frame-up by Puddu. Furthermore, young Caterina, negotiating with the press, firing her mother’s staff, wresting control of her mother’s design business from her brother, is spinning wildly out of control. Meantime, the Contessa, exhibiting traits of the Stockholm Syndrome, allies herself with one of her captors and is shocked beyond depression at newspaper versions of her children’s actions, preparing for a resolution that bodes ill for the future of the Brunamontis.
A multidimensional view of Italy’s kidnapping laws, the ways around them, and the greed that destroys some families while love and unspoken understanding succors others. As well-written and emotionally acute as The Monster of Florence (1997).