Friday, 30 August 2013

Book Review: The Black Rose of Florence - Michele Giuttari

Synopsis - A strikingly beautiful young woman is found dead in her Florence apartment.  She lies on her bed, naked, a black rose between her legs.  And the murders do not stop there: shortly afterwards, a woman is burned to death in a church, and a man is shot on the Ponte Vecchio.

Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara is all too familiar with the dark side of Florence.  But he has never seen anything of this magnitude before - he is up against a mysterious, powerful enemy who would do anything to hide his identity, and manages to control events at every turn.

As more violent deaths occur, Ferrara has to face the most dangerous investigation in his entire career and must confront deadly secrets from his own past...

Review - Michele Giuttari has all the right credentials to be a crime novelist.  A former head of the Florence Police Force who was responsible for jailing several key Mafia figures.

The first thing I noticed about Giuttari's writing was the detail, down to the label on a bottle of wine, a character's distinguishing features, the slightest movement.  As a policeman all this is a crucial part of the job, noticing the little things and this is evident all the way through the story.  The reader does need detail but occasionally there can be a little too much and I am really talking here about the scene setting .

Both watching European crime series on TV and reading, the police forces across Europe operate differently to ours in the UK.  In Italy, you have the Carabinieri and the police.  The Prosecution service has a key role in how the police forces operate .  Hence, the amount of different characters that appear on the investigative side alone.  I found it quite confusing early on in the book with so many characters to work out who was who.  We have Chief Superintendent Ferrara and his many inspectors working for him, Chief Prosecutor Fiore and his deputy Vinci, Commissioner Adinolfi, the pathologists and forensic teams and lastly the Carabinieri with Marshal Gori leading their side of the investigation.  Alongside this large cast of characters within the police we have the criminals and victims, of whom there are also many to get to know, understand their relevance and where they fit in.

In spite of my comments above I enjoyed the book.  Basically, a good storyline with plenty going on to keep the reader interested.  Running the currently popular theme of satanic rituals, Masonic brotherhoods and black magic.  I liked the nod to Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code', which was referenced with our key criminal reading the novel on a couple of occasions in the story.  Great characterisations with some really nasty criminals and across the police forces, we see both likeable and loath-able characters.

In many novels you get pointers earlier on in the story as to who the killer may be and with this story it is always believed to be on a grander scale than just a sole operative.  I wasn't surprised to find out who the 'mole' was in the police force, sadly I felt the author gave the game away a little too early with hints about fat wallets and large, nice cars.  Although he did throw in another possibility with the portrayal of the strange but 'loyal' secretary.

I read this novel for book group and we will be discussing it this next month.  Another good crime author to add to my list, I shall be reading more of his books.  4*

ISBN 978-1-4087-0360-1

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