“It’s a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes…”

You like Italian crime sagas, you say? Well, Godfather, let me tell you about Carlo Lucarelli. One of Italy’s foremost crime writers offers us a slim and dark view of Italy’s tainted post-war politics through murder and corruption in Via Delle Oche. Oh, and he throws in a couple of hookers for good noir measure.

We are immediately drawn into the dingy streets of Bologona’s red light district blanketed with atmospheric fog pierced only buy the dimly lit street lamps. There is Commissario De Luca who leads us through the labyrinthine plot twists with a worn commitment to solving the homicides that are plaguing the city. And like most dry, driven do-gooders, he has a humorous and dedicated sidekick, Pugliese. The love interest? La Tripolina, the hard but sympathetic Madame of the Via Delle Oche brothel where one of the homicides takes place. Lucarelli does not give us extraneous descriptive details, only clean writing that converges with the bursts of excitement within the story.

Leaning over the stairwell, his hands on the black banister to assuage the light sense of vertigo that afflicted him every time he looked down from some high place, De Luca could hardly hear his own voice. The five flights of stairs, coiling upwards, were full of people, in dressing gowns, in pajamas, in civilian clothes and in uniform, all of them getting louder and louder. There was a buzz that became a murmur, then a hubbub, then an indistinct holler echoing between the landings, winding its way into the apartments, rising up through the soul of the building, filling it with a racket that was so intense and solid that it could almost be touched.
Each chapter begins with headlines from post-war Italy, outlining the political zeitgeist of the time, it’s contradictions and strife trying to recover from the effects of fascism. Ultimately, De Luca, who is perceived to have been affiliated with fascists and Communists, is just a cop trying to get the job done, trying to find the truth. Perhaps a weary archetype, but with Lucarelli’s sparse descriptive elements combined with his historically solid portrayal of a country ensconced in political turmoil, there is no flatness. This is the final book in the De Luca Trilogy, yet it only leaves guessing of ominous endings for our hero.

A dark read that is worth it if only for a glimpse into Italy’s history.

Book one in the De Luca Trilogy Carte Blanche Book two in the De Luca Trilogy The Damned Season (all three translated by the talented Michael Reynolds)

Via Delle Oche
By Carlo Lucarelli
Tranlsated by Michael Reynolds
Europa EditionsPaperback
144 pages
ISBN: 978-1-933372-53-2

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