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Barbara Baraldi’s “Commissario Clelia Vinci” is a poignant short story that plants love at the center of every character’s troubles. Whether it is familial, lustful, romantic, or obsessive love, Baraldi’s contribution to Venice Noir is not about a happy ending. Just when readers think they are in for a joyful twist, they will be jerked back into the dark plot that allows not even a speck of sunlight to peek through.
Narrator Clelia Vinci is obsessed with her job as a policewoman. Even after the man she trusts most leaves her because of her job she continues to stick to it. Even her daughter is not enough to draw her away from the job she loves so much. A call to investigate a murder/suicide easily draws Clelia away from telling her daughter a bed time story. She tells her little girl to listen to the wind and it will bring stories from far away to her, despite the girl being absolutely petrified of the howling wind.
This same wind that Clelia tells her daughter will comfort her is the wind that she was told to protect herself from when she was a young girl. Her father had always told her that it could sweep away her soul. Yet, from all the hype that the wind is given in the beginning of this story, it fizzles out. It is rather disappointing to see the almost insignificant role it turns out to play.
The fast-paced mystery of the story makes up for any disappointment in the lack of the wind’s occurrence throughout. Love also runs rampant and weaves itself in and out of the plot as new characters are introduced. Only one character is able to describe the core reason as to why such horrid things are happening in the story: the wife of the victim of the murder/suicide. She claims that the reason her daughter went insane is because she is a woman, and women always fall in love with the wrong man. This statement is the theme of the story in a nutshell.
Every woman in the story, accept Clelia’s daughter, has fallen in love with the man they were not intended to even though they seemed like the perfect partner at the time. Baraldi covers all of the situations that could go wrong in terms of a wrongly chosen lover. For example, family relationships are ruined, as well as professional relationships, first loves, star-crossed lovers, and the perfect guy that comes along too late.
The victimization of the characters and the torments that never seem to end even when the law has solved the case of the murder/suicide make “Commissario Clelia Vinci” an excellent contribution to Venice Noir. This short story reminds readers of the theme of justice. What the law sees as justice is not the same as the justice in the minds of some of the Venetian citizens that is seen in other stories in this compilation.