The Wooden Leg of Inspector Anders

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Inspector Anders lost his leg in an explosion ten years earlier when he shut down an anarchist group. Nearing an early retirement at fifty, he is sent to an unnamed city to look into the bombing death of a magistrate who had been investigating the assassination of a judge. With the help of the judge’s widow, a disgraced but incorruptible local police detective, and an elderly professor, Anders uncovers connections between the mayor, the police commissioner, a nationally prominent businesswoman, and the mafia.

Everyone tries to convince Anders that anarchists, who have been dormant for years, are behind the deaths. All he has to do is talk to a handful of people who might know something about the killings, write a report, and return to Rome. He is annoyed, however, by the smug disdain of those in authority and becomes determined to find the truth.

Except for Matucci, the flashily dressed detective whose late wife was the commissioner’s sister, and Professor Roditi, who hides in the subterranean depths of the public library, conducting his research into how the mafia has corrupted Italian society, the characters are not as well drawn as they might have been. Author Marshall Browne, an Australian, succeeds wonderfully, however, with his hero. Anders, whose family came to Italy from the Netherlands two hundred years earlier, is writing a study of one of his ancestors, a neglected nineteenth century poet. Anders’s patience and resolve are his best qualities, along with the courage to risk his life for what seems a hopeless cause. The way his artificial leg figures into the resolution of the plot is especially clever.