April 1945 in Northern Italy and Commissario De Luca has transferred from the Brigata Ettore Muti – the political police - to the civil police force, insisting that he is nothing more than a police man, not a puppet of the fascist regime. His first day in his new job and he’s assigned to the murder of Rehinard, an Italian citizen, member of the Fascist Republican Party with political connections to Il Duce and Count Tedesco (the Minister for Foreign Affairs) and a serial womaniser. As the allies advance northwards and the partisans gain in confidence and take pot shots at the fascist forces, De Luca becomes unwillingly embroiled in a political fight between members of a dying regime, picking his way through the minefield whilst determined to solve Rehinard’s murder.
‘What do you think the Chief will say?’
‘What will the Chief say?’ Pugiese repeated with a wry smile.
‘What I’m about to tell you now.’ De Luca pulled his badge out from inside his trench coat and opened it before a militiaman who was heading towards them with a menacing look. ‘Out of my fucking way, son,’ he said. ‘This here is none of your business. Just forget it.’
Carte Blanche is a novella, less than 100 pages long. The narrative is driven along by what the characters say and do, with little thick description of looks or thoughts or back story. However, the characterization does not suffer from such a writing style and De Luca and his colleagues are brought to life in an economical fashion that lets the story rip along. The book might be short, but the story is complex, full and rounded, and my immediate response on finishing was, ‘I need the next book - now!’ On reflection, I’m trying to decide if that’s partially a response to the book being so thin; that I wanted Lucarelli to flesh out Carte Blanche into a full novel – and I certainly think there was scope to do that. I’m not sure - I really enjoyed this book, and it does work as a novella, but I can’t help wondering if the other two parts of the trilogy are simply the last two parts of the same story split into two further books (they are only another 290 pages between them) , or feeling that there was an opportunity lost to produce a real masterpiece. Nevertheless a fine piece of work and I’ve already ordered the other two parts of the trilogy.
Uriah Robinson at Crime Scraps recommended the book to me - thanks. His review is here.
Also reviewed by Eurocrime.