[Magdalen Nabb, photo by Dirk Vogel, from www.MagdalenNabb.com]
In the early 1800s, Edgar Allen Poe provided "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and Wilkie Collins segued into THE MOONSTONE. The mystery began serious evolution, and arguably became most defined for popular readers with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. But it was not until the surge of escape literature of the 1930s -- one sweet result of the Great Depression -- that readers within the mystery genre could begin to pick favorite subgenres: American urban noir, British country house mysteries ("cozies" would be an offshoot later), French detectives. And when they fell beyond the outlines of North American and its linked nations in Western Europe, settings for mysteries fell into the category of "exotic."
Since the 1970s, one subgenre that's steadily matured has been that of mysteries set in Italy. In Sunday's New York Times Book Reviews, critic Marilyn Stasio saluted the passing of Michael Dibdin as she praised his final, posthumously published volume. Stasio wrote:
Donna Leon has staked out Venice, Magdalen Nabb knows every narrow street in Florence, and Andrea Camilleri holds Sicily in the palm of his hand. But only Michael Dibdin, in the clever and exuberantly witty police procedurals he created for a dyspeptic cop named Aurelio Zen, tried to wrap his arms around the whole of Italy.
Today's New York Times brought word of a second death among this foursome: Magdalen Nabb died in Florence on August 18, from a stroke suffered while horseback riding.
I'd already pulled a Dibdin classic onto the bedside table (VENDETTA, 1991); I'll be tugging the Nabb books from the shelf next. What better salute can there be than to read, whether for the first time or for a satisfying second or third, the forays of Aurelio Zen and then of Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia?
Here's a list of Nabb's work, courtesy of http://italian-mysteries.com:
Death of an Englishman (#1) ©1981
Death of a Dutchman (#2) ©1982
Death in Springtime (#3) ©1983
Death in Autumn (#4) ©1984 Florence
The Marshal and the Murderer (#5) ©1987
The Marshal and the Madwoman (#6) ©1988
The Marshal's Own Case (#7) ©1990
The Marshal Makes His Report (#8) ©1991
The Marshal at the Villa Torrini (#9) ©1993
The Monster of Florence (#10) ©1996
Property of Blood (#11) ©1999
Some Bitter Taste (#12) ©2002
The Innocent (#13) ©2005
Vita Nuova (#14, the last) Spring 2008 Publication Date
Also set in Italy (not the Guarnaccia Series):
The Prosecutor (co-author: Paolo Vagheggi) ©1986