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My introduction to Inspector de Luca came from the Italian TV adaptation, starring the charismatic Alessandro Preziosi in the title role. Beyond his performance, the idea of placing a decent and honest cop in the midst of Mussolini's Italy and its aftermath summons the great Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr and the father of this genre, Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko. As the great noirs featured lone detectives caught between crooks and hostile cops, these inheritors pin their protagonists between evil regimes, freedom fighters, occupiers and their own politicized police forces. In a delicious twist, that Carlo Lucarelli reveals in the Preface to this volume, he based his Inspector on an actual person:
[I] was collecting material for a thesis entitled "The Vision of the Police in the Memories of Ant-Fascist" when I ran across a strange character who in a certain sense changed my life.

He was a policeman who had spent forty years in the Italian police, from 1941 to 1981, when he retired. He had started in the fascist political police, the OVRA, a secret organization the meaning of whose very acronym was never known with certainty. As an "ovrino," he told me, his job was to tail, to spy on, and to arrest, anti-fascists who were plotting against the regime. Later, still as an ovrino, he was to tail, to spy on, and to arrest those fascists who disagreed with fascism's leader. Benito Mussolini. During the war, his job went back to railing, spying on, and arresting anti-fascist saboteurs, but towards the end of the war, when part of liberated Italy was under the control of partisan formations fighting alongside the Allies, my strange policeman friend actually became part of the partisan police. As he was good, he told me, he had never done anything particularly brutal and the partisans needed professionals like him to ensure public order and safety. Naturally, his duties included arresting fascists who had stained themselves with criminal acts during the war. Several years later, when, following elections, a regular government was formed in Italy, our policeman became part of the Italian Republic's police: his job, to tail, to spy on, and to arrest some of those partisans who had been his colleagues and who were now considered dangerous subversives.
With a set up like that, it's little wonder the author abandoned academics for crime-writing.

Mr. Lucarelli writes with welcome economy: the De Luca trilogy is pretty much three novellas. And he packs the tension tight, using both physical danger and the moral quandries inherent in the sort of shifting allegiances outlined there. What makes Commissario de Luca so compelling is that his only real interests are surviving himself and solving the crimes he is presented with. These interests come into conflict whenever he pursues the trail of justice towards one of the contending factions. In The Damned Season, he is recognized as he flees towards liberated Rome by a local temporary cop, who wants the job full-time, and extorted into helping solve the brutal murder of a local farm family. The attempt to pass him off as an architect quickly falls prey to town gossip and bringing professional methods to bear on the mystery soon implicates a legendarily savage partisan leader. Meanwhile, de Luca is too starved and sickly to defend himself when trouble comes.

If you can find the show somewhere, it's well worth watching, but the books are even better. They are from the Europa Editions imprint to which every reader owes a debt for making fantastic European literature accessible to English readers. This translation, by Michael Reynolds, is perfectly readable.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

Carlo Lucarelli Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: (in Italian)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Carlo Lucarelli
    -WIKIPEDIA: Inspector De Luca (novel series)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Carlo Lucarelli (IMDB)
    -AUTHOR PAGE: Carlo Lucarelli (Europa Editions)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Il commissario De Luca : TV Mini-Series (2008– ) (IMDB)
    -VIDEO: Inspector De Luca (2013) Season 1 Episode 3
    -VIDEO: Inspector De Luca (2013) Season 1 Episode 4
    -EXCERPT: from An excerpt from Falange armata Carlo Lucarelli (Journal of Specialised Translation)
    -ESSAY: The mysterious case of theory and practice: crime fiction in collaborative translation (Brigid Maher, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Journal of Specialised Translation)
    -ENTRY: Carlo Lucarelli (World Heritage Encyclopedia)
    -ENTRY: Carlo Lucarelli (Italian Mysteries)
    -ENTRY: Carlo Lucarelli (Stop You're Killing Me)
    -ENTRY: Lucarelli, Carlo 1960- (
    -PROFILE: Carlo Lucarelli, novelist, makes use of Italy's unsolved crimes (Elisabetta Povoledo, Oct. 23, 2007, NY Times)
    -INTERVIEW: Carlo Lucarelli, the Italian "troublemaker": During the event “Libri Come,” organized at the the Italian Cultural Institute in New York, we sat down with the popular giallo writer and television host to talk about Italy's politics, television, past and present history (LETIZIA AIROS AND ALICE BONVICINI, November 10, 2010, i.Italy)
    -ESSAY: Lucarelli's Guernica: The Predicament of Postmodern Impegno (Elena Past, Italica)
    -ARCHIVES: Inspector De Luca (EuroCrime)
    -ARCHIVES: Carlo Lucarelli (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Damned Season by Carlo Lucarelli (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of Damned Season (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Damned Season (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Damned Season (Glenn Harper, International Noir)
    -REVIEW: of Damned Season (Karen Meek, EuroCrime)
    -REVIEW: of Damned Season (Charles L.P. Silet, Mystery Scene)
    -REVIEW: of Damned Season (PETER ROZOVSKY, Detectives Beyond Borders)
    -REVIEW: of Damned Season (View from the Blue House)
    -REVIEW: of Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of Carte Blanche (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Carte Blanche (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Carte Blanche (Kittling Books)
    -REVIEW: of Carte Blanche (Karen Meeks, EuroCrime)
    -REVIEW: of Carte Blanche (View from the Blue House)
    -REVIEW: of Carte Blanche (Richard Lipez, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Carte Blanche (Glenn Cole Russell)
    -REVIEW: of Carte Blanche (Shawn Badgely, Austin Chronicle))
    -REVIEW: of Carte Blanche (Frank Wilson, Philadelphia Inquirer)
    -REVIEW: of Carte Blanche (Maxim Jakubowski, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Via delle Oche (Peter Rozovsky, Words Without Borders)
    -REVIEW: of Villa delle Oche (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Villa delle Oche (Glenn Harper, International Noir)
    -REVIEW: of Villa delle Oche (Houston Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of The De Luca Trilogy by Carlo Lucarelli (Guy Savage, Mostly Fiction)
    -REVIEW: of The De Luca Trilogy (Kate Sharpley)
    -REVIEW: of Outsiders: Italian Stories, Roberto Saviano, Carlo Lucarelli, Valeria Parrella, Piero Colaprico, Wu Ming, Simona Vinci (Tom Moriarty, Irish Times)
    -REVIEW: of Judges by Andrea Camilleri, Carlo Lucarelli, Giancarlo De Cataldo, Joseph Farrell and Alan Thawley (Juan Vidal, NPR)
    -REVIEW: of Judges (EuroCrime)
    -REVIEW: of Day after Day by Carlo Lucarelli (Petrona)
    -REVIEW: of Day after Day (Maxim Jakubowski, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Almost Blue by Carlo Lucarelli (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of Almost Blue (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Almost Blue (Petrona)
    -REVIEW: of Almost Blue (Glenn Harper, International Noir)
    -REVIEW: of Almost Blue (Reviewing the Evidence)
    -REVIEW: of Almost Blue (Maxim Jakubowski, The Guardian)
    -TV REVIEW: Inspector De Luca (Martin Edwards, Do You Write Under Your Own Name?)
    -TV REVIEW: Inspector De Luca (Murder, Mayhem & More)
    -REVIEW: of Inspector de Luca (Peek-a-boo)
    -REVIEW: of Inspector de Luca (Patrick Mulkern, Radio Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Almost Blue (David Rooney, Variety)

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