Friday, November 19, 2021

Novellas in November: Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli

Carte Blanche is a novella by Carlo Lucarelli, translated from Italian, the first in a trilogy. The setting is April 1945 in Italy. 

The story starts shortly before the end of World War II, in the final days of the Fascist regime in Italy. The protagonist is a policeman in the regular police, Commissario De Luca, who only recently transferred from another police group that worked under the direction of Mussolini. He just wants to solve crimes without having political interference, but that seems impossible in Italy during the war.

De Luca's first assignment in the regular police is to find who is responsible for the murder of a member of the Fascist party, Vittorio Rehinard. This investigation brings him into the world of the rich and privileged. After a day or two of investigation, De Luca begins to understand that no one in a position of power in the police or the government cares whether the killer is caught. He cares, though, and he continues to pursue the investigation.

From the description on the Europa edition that I read:

Carte Blanche, the first installment in Carlo Lucarelli's "De Luca Trilogy," is much more than a first-rate crime story. It is also an investigation into the workings of justice in a state that is crumbling under the weight of profound historic change.


My thoughts:

  • The Preface by the author is fantastic, explaining his inspiration for writing the story. He followed this story up with two more short novels featuring Comissario De Luca, The Damned Season and Via Delle Oche.
  • I nearly always enjoy crime fiction set around the time of World War II, but I have not read many books set in Italy during that time. Thus I learned about new aspects of World War II.
  • The story is fast-paced and never boring. The tension is maintained throughout. De Luca is  sometimes perplexed and concerned about his future and the future of the country, but he isn't going to give up on the investigation. 
  • At times I was a bit confused about the different factions in Italy, and the many characters and whose side they were on, but that was a minor distraction.

I read this for the "Literature in Translation" Week in the Novellas in November 2021 reading event. The event celebrates the short novel, or novella. The host blogs are 746 Books and Bookish Beck


Publisher:    Europa Editions, 2006 (orig. pub. 1990)
Translator:  Michael Reynolds
Length:       93 pages
Format:      Trade Paperback
Series:        De Luca Trilogy, #1
Setting:       Italy
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:       Purchased at Planned Parenthood book sale, 2010.


Margot Kinberg said...

I'm glad that novellas are getting some extra attention, Tracy. They're often a really effective way to tell a story. And this story (and the preface!) sound really engaging. I need to read more Lucarelli, anyway, so thanks for calling this to my attention.

TracyK said...

I did enjoy this novella, Margot. I had been meaning to get to it for years, now I can move on to the 2nd book.

Neeru said...

Seems like an interesting look at those turbulent times, Tracy. Looking forward to your reading and reviewing the other 2 bks in the series.

Rick Robinson said...

Interesting time and place, though I wonder, in actual times, how much a going-against-the-grain cop would be tolerated.

FictionFan said...

Sounds interesting - I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of the ither two if your go on to read them.

TracyK said...

Neeru, I really know little about Italy during World War II so it was very interesting to me. I look forward to reading those books and seeing what De Luca does next.

TracyK said...

Rick, good question. Every one in the book seemed to be expecting those in power at the time to soon be out of power, and the times were so confusing I think it was easier to get away with. Within the story in the book, it seemed believable to me, and believable that he was willing to deal with the consequences. It was not that he was super confident in himself, but he just wanted to do actual police work. It worked for me.

TracyK said...

FictionFan, I will definitely be reading the 2nd one soonish since I have it on hand. Then I will be looking for the third one.

Sam said...

This one sounds like fun, Tracy. Funny that I never have much thought about civilian police forces and what they faced during WWII in Europe and elsewhere. Novels like this one are a reminder that "ordinary" murders were probably still going on, maybe at an even quicker pace than before the war because killers had a better chance of their crime just slipping through the crack. I'll have to take a look at Carte Blanche.

TracyK said...

Sam, I have read several books in a series by a Canadian author, J. Robert Janes, about a French policeman who has to work with a Gestapo officer to solve crimes in Paris in World War II. The characters are Hermann Kohler of the Gestapo and Louis St-Cyr from the Surete. I enjoyed reading about police investigations in that situation.

I don't think I have read anything about Italy during the war before, however.

Rick Robinson said...

I know it’s early, but I’m down with a cold and taking NyQuil, so I’m a bit “do it when I think of it” - so Happy Thanksgiving in advance. Cold here, 31 this morning when B. got up! Frost on roofs.

TracyK said...

I am sorry to hear that you have a cold, Rick. I hope that doesn't affect your ability to enjoy a good Thanksgiving meal. It has seemed colder here lately, but the low tonight is only 48.

Happy Thanksgiving to both of you, and I hope to hear that you are feeling better soon.