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Houston Chronicle: "Lucarelli is an acute observer of bodies negotiating space, and scenes accurately evoking the physical turmoil of the times . . . serve to frame De Luca's own off-balance person."

Date: Jun 10 2008

With Via Delle Oche Carlo Lucarelli closes his trilogy set in postwar Italy where communists are violently pitched against conservative Christian Democrats, and everyone is hypersensitive to their partisan or fascist pasts.

His hero, Commissario De Luca, arrives in Bologna on the eve of an election and (though assigned to vice) immediately tags along to a murder scene with the impish Neapolitan Maresciallo Pugliese.

Within a day, the hanging death of a whorehouse bouncer has been closed as a dubious suicide. A second related homicide is as quickly closed. Each time, De Luca, compulsively investigating the crimes, is warned off by the police chief's right-wing vicar with his creepy high-pitched voice, though the bemused communist cabinet chief gives him some offhand help. As does a beautiful but bitter madam whose fortunes have suddenly improved.

The need to break the case drives De Luca, but he himself is the real mystery: intelligent, dogged, subject to vertigo, suppressing his intense frustrations, reeling at smells, an espresso drinker unable to eat. Lucarelli is an acute observer of bodies negotiating space, and scenes accurately evoking the physical turmoil of the times — whether the silent, clicking film of a demonstration or the raucous crowd in a whorehouse kitchen — serve to frame De Luca's own off-balance person.

This slender book pivots on the recorded past. But even the annoying clutter of quoted headlines, pedantic footnotes, and meticulously detailed political posters (or the repetitive descriptors in the translation) can't dispel the sense of fiercely repressed anguish.