Lo strano mondo di Alex Woods (Italian Edition)

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In the case of crime fiction, the personal memories of the detective-protagonists and the events unfolding in the present which they investigate constantly interplay with the traces of the historical past. The city appears as a nightmare of corruption well rooted in a past that returns to haunt, and as such lends itself as the vehicle to a critique of post-war and contemporary Italy. The effect is unheimlich.

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She was not just the home of political science but the place where the passion for power had reached its utmost refinement, as apparent from a reading of The Prince. I was not thinking of cruelty as a pathological development of character due to serious states of frenzy or insanity, but of evil connected to intelligence and morality: pure rational evil, indissolubly united to the idea of power, which is the germ of State crime Fortes, Paradoxically, therefore, it is its being the cradle of the Renaissance that makes Florence the best scenario for crime and often crime of particular brutality.

Florence has always been a place where the greatest tokens and achievements of civilization could coexist alongside examples of the greatest barbarism. Cultivated and refined ottimati were capable of appalling acts of cruelty if they felt threatened as individuals, as families, as parties or as a class.

An apparently tranquil and industrious population could all of a sudden become a mob called to street battle by this or that faction as when the Medici periodically summoned their Mugello tenants to invade Florence when they felt threatened and the life of the city could be suddenly upset by sudden outbursts of furious violence not only against rivals and their families, including women and children, but their possessions and their very homes: Florence has been destroyed more often by Florentines than by external enemies.

This is the side of Florence that is captured by the imagination of crime fiction writers,5 some of whom — Nabb, Giuttari, Vichi and Gori — have created series of novels around the work of one detective. First of all, it is important to stress that for these writers Florence is not a just a backdrop: its topography is interwoven in the very fabric of their novels and affects all elements of them.

Among the most beautiful and loved in the world, rich in history and art treasures, she offers herself to visitors like a generous courtesan. But on one hand she adorns and gives herself, on the other she locks herself behind the heavy doors of her patrician dwellings, jealous of an intimacy not to be desecrated. Un uomo al potere Interestingly, Francesco Pazzi had been bitten furiously by the archbishop of Pisa before they were both thrown out —a detail that Hannibal Lecter must have certainly relished. As a Sicilian outsider, Ferrara is, on one hand, well positioned to give a judgement of Florence that can be somewhat impartial, but, precisely because he is an outsider, he lacks the ability to experience the city with the eyes of the past which Bordelli has.

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Quel romanzo gli aveva evocato, quando era lontano, una Firenze cruda che apparteneva alla sua prima giovinezza. That novel had evoked for him, during the years of absence, the rough Florence of his early youth. It is difficult to forget these terrible events when the very monuments are mementos of them. Between and eight double homicides took place in the countryside surrounding Florence.

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They had in common the modus operandi of the killer, who attacked young couples in their cars parked in solitary places, and the weapons a knife and a Beretta calibre The perpetrator shot the victims and mutilated the cadaver of the female cutting off breasts and pubic parts as trophies. One person was accused and condemned in , but even then it appeared clear that there had been accomplices who were never arrested.

Nor was the gun found, and it was used again in the double homicides of , as well as in the following killings, which took place in quick succession in June and October , and again in , , and The accused, Pietro Pacciani, was convicted of all the killings except those of , for which the evidence was not considered sufficient, but the sentence also mentioned the strong possibilities that Pacciani had had accomplices. This notorious and prolonged investigation influenced the imagination of several authors of Florentine detective fiction.

Margaret Nabb later covered the appeal trial for the English newspaper Sunday Times and wrote up the case in one of the Guarnaccia novels, The Monster of Florence. Thomas Harris, author of The Silence of the Lambs, attended all hearings of this trial and set in Florence his next novel, Hannibal. None however was as profoundly marked by the affair as Michele Giuttari.

In Giuttari, as Chief of the Squadra Mobile investigating police of Florence, was tasked with re-opening the investigations to find the possible accomplices of Pacciani, who died mysteriously in This hypothesis remained unconfirmed and brought to no sentence Rossi, 83— In Giuttari, who had by then left the police after a campaign of abuse, published a book on his investigation Il Mostro.

Even in the twenty first century, Florence appears in crime fiction as dominated by sinister, omnipresent and hidden powers exercising a complete control over the lives of the citizens from the backstage and in complete independence from the judiciary and the police. Gathered in secret societies, the wealthy upper bourgeoisie and aristocracy of Florence are in collusion with organized crime and untouchable by the powers of the State, which they have in fact infiltrated.

They always find new ways of escaping, regrouping and perpetuating their hold on the city even when they seem on the brink of being discovered and exposed by the work of police, carabinieri and magistrates.

He is a loner who is very good at his job and an idealist who pays, one way or another, for doing his duty as a servant of the State. He does not get away unscathed from the stories he has to solve, but manages not to lose his compassion for victims of all kinds. She lived near the carabinieri station located in Palazzo Pitti and befriended the local maresciallo, with whom she discussed real life cases.

Florence has always, ever since the Renaissance, been a cosmopolitan city, and since the 18th century the chosen home of a numerous pseudo-artistic Anglo-Saxon colony. In the novels by Gori and Vichi we experience the Florence of the present through the perceptions of Arcieri and Bordelli, and the Florence of the past through their memories. After twenty years of residence in the city, the character of the Florentines is still a conundrum to Guarnaccia. However, he makes up for his displacement through an exceptional capacity to empathise with people. This natural gift is obviously extremely useful to his investigations.

He has an instinctive perception of lies and can intuit when people are trying to hide facts from him. He also has the ability to subliminally register and store the details of a crime scene, which he later mulls in his mind until he identifies the false note or the incongruous detail. This is a faculty much appreciated by his Captain, who often insists on having him as a silent, background and unnoticed presence during interrogations of suspects and examinations of crime scenes. Simenon reciprocated this admiration and the two writers corresponded for many years.


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Solving crimes is his job and his first duty, but the fate of the collateral casualties remains a preoccupation for him, and so he is always engaged in helping out as he can, or worrying about, Eastern European prostitutes, children caught in the sex-slave traffic, rescued and traumatised kidnap victims, drug addicts and dogs left without a master… Nabb documents the changes undergone by the city from the end of the s to the end of the century.

Besides the ever increasing traffic, smog, noise and tourist chaos, she also highlights the demographic changes: her books are particularly interesting as a documentation of the growing complexity of cultural clashes. The isolation of the English colony, whose members like Florence enough to appropriate its art and history, but not enough to interact with his inhabitants or even learn their language, is described with mordant satire, as is the attitude of superiority of the Scotland Yard detective sent to make sure that his Italian colleagues do not muddle the investigation.

Santo Spirito is still an area populated by working class and artisans, but drug addiction has already started invading it. In The Marshal and the Murderer Guarnaccia, whilst investigating the attempted rape and murder of a young Swiss student in a village outside Florence, stumbles into a family feud rooted in an atrocity committed at the end of the Second World War by a Fascist SS-collaborationist who is now standing for election as mayor.

In The Marshal and the Madwoman the victim turns out to be an unfortunate woman who had lost her husband, her child, her home and her sanity in the Florence Flood a traumatic event that insistently recurs in Florence detective fiction and to which I will return later. Guarnaccia however finds out that behind them there is a group of wealthy Florentine patrons, all affiliated to the Masonry, who commission the murders and mutilations in order to enjoy their spectacle both live and on tape.

The Marshal however is not insensitive to the beauty of the place where he has spent twenty years of his life and where, in Vita Nuova, he finally decides to buy a home and permanently settle with his family. He remains however a spectator, an observer of the contemporary life of his adopted city, mainly because of his temperament, but also because he lacks the memories that colour the visions of Arcieri and Bordelli.

His theory was that the man accused of being the serial killer was in fact a member of a group connected to the Florentine elite. His investigation was hampered in various ways and in he was convicted for abuse of powers, a ruling overturned the following year. It has its own impenetrable rules and its members are as much outside the reach of the State as they were in the Middle Ages.

To continue his investigations and try to prevent further deaths Giuttari is forced to ask for the help of Anna Giulietti, who is able to obtain for him access to the bishop not, it is worth stressing, in her capacity as Substitute State Prosecutor but because she happens to be a member of the aristocratic elite of Florence. The following novel, La loggia degli innocenti, also has at its heart a harrowing story of child sexual abuse, but this time the very young victim is an Albanian child prostitute found dead, apparently by overdose, in a garbage dump.

In Il basilisco and La ragazza della ndrangheta we see Ferrara engaged against the Sicilian and Calabrian mafias against which he, like Giuttari himself, had fought in the early part of his career, before being transferred to Florence. In both cases Giuttari is evidently drawing from his own experience as policeman and investigator.

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Thanks to this profound knowledge of the investigative and judicial mechanisms in Italy, his novels are very detailed and plausible examples of the so-called procedural crime novel. These terrorist attacks in Florence and also in other major Italian cities, followed directly the sentences of The Florence bomb killed five people, wounded forty-eight, brought down the Torre dei Georgofili with its centuries-old archives and destroyed several art works in the Uffizi, one of the most important museums in the world, in the heart of a city which is a UNESCO heritage site.

It was an act of desecration as much as a blow to the heart of the State. The last three Ferrara novels Le rose nere di Firenze, Il cuore oscuro di Firenze and I sogni cattivi di Firenze insistently explore the theme of secret societies connected to satanic rituals, pedophilia and the smuggling of sexual slaves from Eastern Europe. They are all set between the end of the twentieth century and the first years of the twenty-first. In all, the perversion of a powerful and wealthy Florentine oligarchy appears well served by the brutality of modern foreign criminals, but is also extremely well rooted in centuries of a hidden power which has successfully manipulated all forms of government in Italy, also thanks to its connections to the Catholic Church and various types of secret societies.

This psychological element characterizes European detective fiction and differentiates it from the Anglo-Saxon detective story, which gives great importance to plot and coup de theatre Orlandi, In particular, the Italian detective story gives great space and importance to the psychological analysis of reasons and motivations which lead individuals to commit crimes.

Bordelli is an intelligent and humane policeman, who wants to understand criminals before punishing them and who feels solidarity towards the victims of a corrupt society. History is a succession of crimes that must be investigated through evidence, but always leaving ourselves open to doubt, and ready to accommodate the new hypotheses suggested by new evidence: exactly as happens in a police investigation. The history of Italy during the Second World War is of particularly difficult interpretation: the nation was split by Fascism, because the resistance to Fascism started even before the National Fascist Party came to power.

It was a civil war fought by Italians against Italians as well as by Germans against Anglo-Americans. Bordelli notices by pure chance that one Antonio Samsa appears to lie buried simultaneously in two Florentine cemeteries, with two different dates of death, and What Bordelli uncovers is however a real crime, perpetrated against Samsa, a wealthy Jew, by his best friend, who had denounced him to the Fascists in order to steal his fortune, as happened all too frequently in the Italy of those years.

Samsa had survived Auschwitz and gone back to his family in Florence, only to linger on as the husk of a man for eleven years and then shoot himself. The perpetrator is an Italian Jew who has survived Auschwitz, so, by definition, is himself a victim. Once again, we are reminded that a shameful past that is not confronted and atoned for will come back to haunt us and may make fresh and innocent victims in this case, the four little girls who have in common the fact of having German fathers.

The plot of Il nuovo venuto set in , published in and translated in as Death in Sardinia contains not one but two crimes, one taking place in Florence and investigated by Bordelli and the other in Sardinia and investigated by his young colleague Pietro Piras.

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Both crimes turn out to be related to events that took place in the Second World War. The murder of a usurer in Florence is the result of his blackmail of a woman who as a girl had prostituted herself to American troops and does not want her son to know it; the murder of a Sardinian shepherd, who during the war had survived a massacre perpetrated by a Fascist squad, turns out to have been committed by the leader of those Fascists, who has taken on a false identity and has become a wealthy architect, but fears being recognised by his one surviving victim.

The reader shares the dismay of young Pietro, himself the son of a Resistance fighter, at the discovery that an ex-Fascist with a record as a war criminal could attain wealth and social standing twenty years after the war Vichi, Interestingly, he detests Bordelli for his insubordinate spirit and his idiosyncratic methods of investigation.

Inzipone thus represents an authoritarian Fascist culture that was still hegemonic in s Italy. Against it, only the post-war generation seems to offer a hope of renewal. For the moment the rage of these young people is still largely unfocused and expresses itself in a love for the Rolling Stones, marijuana and miniskirts, and a total rejection of anything their parents hold dear or believe in. But is only three years away, and ex-freedom fighters like Bordelli and Arcieri instinctively sympathise with these young people.

Everybody owns or aspires to own a Fiat Cinquecento, a black and white television and a dishwasher.

Organised crime is in search of pastures new. Its mystery and secretiveness are due to the existence of networks of unwholesome affiliations: Masonic groups, pseudo esoteric sects, paedophile and sex-slave rings, drug trafficking are all connected to the ruling bourgeoisie and aristocracy of the town and to the catholic church.

This shows that families, institutions and even individuals who held power and influence during Fascism have never really lost it and continue to manipulate the life of the city.