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The Wooden Leg of Inspector Anders - Marshall Browne

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Author: Marshall Browne / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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      10.08.2006 10:07
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      Not bad, but not brilliant

      I chose this book partly because it is crime fiction, but mainly because I read J M Coetzee’s Slow Man recently, which is about a man who loses his leg. Clearly, it is a secondary theme in this book, buy losing a limb must be one of the most traumatic things that can happen to anyone and I value books that try to explain the pain and mental anguish that it can cause. Unfortunately, the topic was only lightly touched upon and the book was far too similar to Michael Dibdin’s work to be of any great value.

      The plot
      Inspector Anders is a hero because of his actions ten years before, in which he lost a leg. Since then, he has taken desk jobs and thinks that is the way that things will remain until he retires. Then he is asked to re-examine the murder into a judge and magistrate in another city and report his findings back to Rome. Everyone knows that the Mafia were responsible, but as the city’s bureaucrats are as involved with the Mafia as those responsible for the murder, but equally everyone knows that the true story will not be allowed to come out.

      Then Inspector Anders meets the wife of the magistrate and is convinced that he must find her husband’s murderer. Much to the despair of the local commissioner of police, Anders’ investigation takes an unexpected turn and despite being tailed, he manages to throw off his followers time and time again. Can he uncover the truth without causing the deaths of more innocent people first?

      The characters
      Having lost his leg ten years before, Inspector Anders has clearly struggled to get his life back on track. He spent several years out of the police, until he decided to return to take up a desk job. All he wants to do is finish this investigation and return to Rome to retire. However, his tenacity persuades him not to give in to pressure to tell a fake story. He has a penchant for older women with older bodies, perhaps because he is aware that his own body is less than perfect.

      His character reminds me very much of Dibdin’s Aurelio Zen – both have done well in their careers in the past, but have been forced to slow down. Both are emotionally retarded and seem unable to commit to a relationship. Both like to work on their own and refuse to work with a partner. So similar in fact that they could be the same people and as Aurelio Zen appeared first, Anders has to be a copy.

      None of the other characters are well developed. Anders is definitely the central character (again like Zen), all the others are kept very much in the background and to be honest, I was happy for it to be that way.

      Conclusion
      I liked the way the story developed. It started gently, but speeded up in all the right places. This is one advantage that I think it has over Dibdin’s work, which is often too long and tedious and starts to flop towards the end.

      The writing style wasn’t bad and suited the flow of the book, although I can’t see it winning any literary prizes. Sometimes though good clear language that says what it needs to and no more is good enough for me. There is nothing worse than the pretentiousness of some authors who throw in complicated language with no other purpose than to show off.

      Unfortunately what let this book down was not only that Inspector Anders reminded me very much of Aurelio Zen, but that the plot was also very similar to one of Michael Dibdin’s, as well as being set in Italy. Michael Dibdin does what he does very well, but there is no need for another one.

      If you haven’t read any of Dibdin’s work, this is probably worth a read. If not, on the whole, it is an inferior read. Recommended, but with reservations. However, it is worth noting that whatever I think of it, the book did win the Australian Ned Kelly Award for the Best First Crime Novel in 2000.

      The book is available from Amazon from £4.48. Published by St Martin’s Griffin, it has 240 pages. ISBN: 0312291493

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