Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review of Via Delle Oche by Carlo Lucarelli, translated by Michael Reynolds, Europa Editions (2008, in Italian in 1990)

Via Delle Oche is the third part of Lucarelli’s Commissario De Luca trilogy. The three books cover the period 1945 to 1948 in post-war Italy (the other books being Carte Blanche and The Damned Season) and follow the De Luca’s attempts to survive as a policeman in the transition from a fascist regime to a fledgling democracy. A few days before the crucial election that will decide whether Italy turns to social democracy or communism, De Luca has been demoted to Sub Commissario and reassigned to the vice squad in Bologna. On his first day he is dragged away from the station by Pugliese, a former colleague, to a supposed suicide in a brothel on the via della Oche. The death has been ruled as a suicide, but it’s clear to De Luca that there’s been foul play. As he starts to investigate he is repeatedly warned off, but despite his own vulnerability he continues to put his nose where it’s not desired. Soon other deaths occur and the evidence points to a cover-up between politicians and members of the police, and De Luca realises he might have pushed too far.

As with the previous two books, Via Delle Oche is a short book (133 pages), but unlike the previous two, I didn’t feel the story was so under-developed, although it could have benefited from some fleshing out in places. De Luca is a complex, conflicted character and the story captures the atmosphere, politics and corruption of a country in turmoil. I am particularly taken with Lucarelli’s storytelling which focuses on what the characters say and do, with little thick description or the use of metaphors or similes. Rather than being dull and lifeless, Lucarelli’s prose is rich and the story races along. I’m not sure if Lucarelli has plans for any other De Luca novels, but I’d certainly welcome them and I’ll be checking out his other translated fiction. The production values on the books is excellent and I love the covers. A fine piece of writing and a satisfying end to the trilogy.

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