In the ninth installment of de Giovanni's popular Commissario Ricciardi series, the titular Italian police officer investigates the death of a wealthy man suspected to be murdered by his much younger wife's ex-lover, a former boxer back in Naples after more than a decade in the United States.
Nameless Serenade is elegantly structured and the subtle interactions with the fascist authorities means that life in Naples during Mussolini’s dictatorship is vividly realized. De Giovanni is a creative crime writer but there is more than a murder mystery here ... his relationships are always front and centre and riveting, I would admire these books if they were simply love stories about Ricciardi and his personal life ... You can read Nameless Serenade as a standalone, no problem ... A lot of credit has to go to Anthony Shugaar for a translation that retains both the thriller and the romance of the original. The relationships between Ricciardi and the women in his life, Maione and Bambinella, Dr. Modo the brilliant pathologist and anti-fascist and Falco the fascist compl[e]ment a thriller that builds in intensity towards a satisfying denouement.
Naples in the early 1930s is the setting for Maurizio de Giovanni’s Nameless Serenade...(translated impressively from the Italian by Antony Shugaar) whose intense opening chapters approach the operatic ... Ricciardi’s life is also thick with operatic complications: Livia, a divorced adventuress, is in love with the Commissario. But he pines in silence for his young neighbor Enrica, who yearns to wed the discreet policeman but fears that she should instead marry the German military man courting her, even as that Nazi is being ensnared by the spying Livia. These romantic, suspenseful and political strains interweave and resolve in superbly artful fashion.
One of the charms of the Ricciardi series (as opposed to the Lojacono series) is that there has always been a feeling that the author is quietly smiling in the background during many scenes involving his very human characters. I missed that feeling here. The writing is not as tight as it was...and it feels loose, lacking a sense of unity and direction.The dialogue is sometimes stilted and simplistic ... Throughout the novel, Maione appears more aggressive—not just impatient—and less grounded than the warm person who has shared his family with us in the past. Ricciardi seems less empathetic, more self-absorbed. With a cast of approximately sixty characters, some of them minor characters with unnecessarily detailed backgrounds, the novel may discourage new readers ... The intensity, feeling, and sense of direction which de Giovanni’s other novels have had in abundance were sadly missed here, and I greatly hope that de Giovanni’s narrative 'smile' returns soon.