The Marshal and the Madwoman by Magdalen Nabb
(from the back of the book)
Why would anyone want to murder Clementina, the crazed, destitute old woman who swore a lot and tidies by night the narrow streets of Florence’s San Frediano district?
Starting with no clues, for nothing is known about Clementina, the Marshal sets out in the city’s wilting August heat to reconstruct her past. His quest takes him into the homes and lives of the people of San Frediano, to a run-down State mental hospital, a fashion export agency, and back twenty-five years to the cataclysmic events that wrecked the old woman’s life.
This is the first book in this series that I have read and I felt I was starting a little behind. It seemed it was assumed the reader would already know who the Marshal was and what his position was. Only I didn’t and I had a little trouble figuring out how he fit into the Florence law enforcement structure. The beginning felt a little slow but that helped set the stage for the slow pace of all of Florence in August. There are a lot of interesting characters here and they are all written so they feel real and believable. And the Marshall becomes involved with all of them, as every witness and suspect seems to have a problem that the Marshall tries to fix even though he has a murder to solve. And as he tries to figure out who this old madwoman was he learns about the floods that devastated lives in years past, delves into the plight of the mentally ill and tries to work within the tight knit community that has its own rules. So the book has a lot of parts. But they are all woven in seamlessly so nothing feel extraneous or out of place and the book is about the community and the people and not just this one case. I liked the writing and the story but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the others in the series so I would know the history of the characters that I feel like I was missing.