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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Mannequin Man

Luca di Fulvio

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Title: The Mannequin Man
Author: Luca di Fulvio
Genre: Novel
Written: 2000 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 369 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: The Mannequin Man - US
The Mannequin Man - UK
The Mannequin Man - Canada
L'Empailleur - France
  • Italian title: L'impagliatore
  • Translated by Patrick McKeown
  • L'impagliatore was made into a film, Occhi di cristallo, in 2004, directed by Eros Puglielli

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Our Assessment:

B : occasionally strained, but a decent thriller overall

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The Mannequin Man is set in an Italian seaside town -- no touristic idyll, but rather a somewhat rundown place with a smelly port. The period covered in the novel coincides closely with a strike by the garbage collectors, and the putrid anarchy into which the city descends as the garbage piles up makes for a nice atmospheric setting to the novel.
       The novel does not only follow thirty-seven year old Chief Inspector Giacomo Amaldi, but he is the pivotal figure. He is your prototypical good-cop:

Amaldia was incorruptible, a man who kept his distance and knew how to step lightly through the minefield of bureaucracy and politics.
       But he's also a troubled loner, scarred by what happened to his first love, which makes his relationships with women somewhat complicated.
       The narrative also focusses on other characters; indeed, it begins and frequently returns to the doings of a murderer. His first crime is set off by a convenient set of circumstances, but after that he's on a mission. And what a mission it is: after his crimes the police find his victims missing body parts -- but with replacement parts from a large mannequin sewn in their place. And it's clear the murderer is, at least, an amateur taxidermist .....
       The murderer's identity is withheld for a good bit of the book, but oddly di Fulvio throws in the towel about halfway through (where one would have imagined a more obvious juncture to reveal his name would have been considerably earlier -- or near the bitter end). Making the identity of the criminal only a semi-mystery, di Fulvio expends considerably more effort trying to show the reasons behind his madness -- a childhood trauma that literally (and identifiably) scarred him, not the world's greatest mom, etc. It's all a bit forced, but there's enough else to the book that it can be tolerated.
       Among the other threads that will come together eventually is a policeman on his deathbed, a crime from decades earlier (an orphanage that burned down) -- where the now-mayor was in charge of the investigation --, and a university student being stalked by a classmate (and the anthropology class they take together). Amaldi takes an interest in the student, Giuditta Luzzatto, and her case, and that also complicates matters. Not surprisingly, Giuditta is also the last woman the murderer targets .....
       Quite a bit of The Mannequin Man is quite strained, di Fulvio working much too hard to describe the troubled inner lives of some of the characters. It's too bad, because the basic story (and the complications he builds into it) are pretty good, and though there are perhaps a few too many far-fetched leaps (Giuditta's stalker turns out to be a born reasearcher ...) one can readily put up with most of them. It all feels a bit manufactured (including the garbage strike, which di Fulvio lets get a bit out of control), less naturally told story than carefully constructed one, but it's still a decent thriller-mystery with some very successful parts.

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The Mannequin Man: Reviews: Occhi di cristallo - the film: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian author Luca di Fulvio was born in 1957.

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