In this very noir depiction of life in post-World War II Italy, there is detective Commissario De Luca and a crime-murder-but they just provide the occasion to talk about life at a time when the country's moral anchors had come loose and every Italian had a grudge. To avoid reprisals for his service under the fascisti, De Luca flees, carrying false papers. He's caught and blackmailed into investigating the bludgeoning murders of a family. Frightened for his life, De Luca makes an uncommon detective but a sympathetic protagonist. He solves the murders by no great feats of ratiocination, just the common sense of his profession.
This second novel in the De Luca trilogy (after Carte Blanche), told by Lucarelli in spare, flat prose, is emotionally wrenching and aesthetically satisfying. Some may be reminded of Alan Furst, but this fine novella has most in common with the earthy, severe fiction of Ignazio Silone and the claustrophobic, psychologically drenched novels Georges Simenon wrote when he wasn't writing about Inspector Maigret.