The Globe and Mail: "A noir with a vengeance."
Date: Dec 12 2009
Italian business, politics and gangsterism make for a potent stew, one in which reality long ago outstripped the fictional imagination. Massimo Carlotto has made a career of stories ripped from Italian headlines and thinly rewritten as fiction. This is noir with a vengeance, the kind of fiction Dashiell Hammett believed in.
Poisonville, taking its name from Hammett's Red Harvest, is a statement about wealth, politics, crime and corruption, set in Italy's northeast, the country's wealthiest and most advanced area.
On a Wednesday like any other, a beautiful woman named Giovanna is on the way to meet her lover. She is about to be married to another man, but she craves her purely sexual partner. They meet, they make love, she relaxes in the bath, and she is murdered.
Giovanna's fiancé is Francesco Visentin, son of the second-richest man in town. He is an elegant snob, filled to the brim with his own entitlement. He associates only with other wealthy and connected people. Giovanna was to be his jewel. Her death forces him to face some nasty facts, all of which are carefully put to him by his doting and protective father, Filippo.
This is a novel where no one comes off well. The victim is a beautiful woman corrupted by the society that bred her. Francesco is the kind of man we love to see get his comeuppance. All of it is a metaphor for the wealthy and corrupt Padua-Vicenza area of Italy, which was the industrial engine of wealth for the entire county and then began losing jobs and factories to cheaper labour in Eastern Europe and China.
It's also about people who want to maintain power at any cost. In Red Harvest, the rich and powerful capitalists fouled their own nest by bringing in criminals to break a strike. Poisonville brings that grim story up to date and does it superbly.