I'm not quite sure when Florence turned from a lovers' playground to a backdrop for vein-slashing, throat-opening mayhem. Christobel Kent's first case for Florentine private eye Sandro Cellini arrives in the tumultuous wake of Michele Giuttari's crime series which mixed death, espresso and political manoeuvring in a manner that only the city's former police chief could nail.
Kent's detective is also an ex-cop, now plying his trade outside the boundaries of normal Italian police procedure. If such a thing exists.
Kent brings a woman's touch to the cigar-chomping realm of Italian noir. Cellini is a man devoted to his wife; an empathetic soul who takes a leisurely, circuitous route to investigating. Kent employs multiple narratives – involving a missing art student and the supposed suicide of an ageing Jewish architect – and an introspective element that results in a brooding atmosphere. Baedeker travel guides, views and grand tours seem a distant foundation for Kent's expat actions and their troubling effect in this fine entrance for a new sleuth. EM Forster would have approved.