I have just finished reading the 156 page novel Via Delle Oche by Carlo Lucarelli.
It is the third in the De Luca trilogy which is set in turbulent Italy during the end of the Second World War and the post war period.
I reviewed Carte Blanche the first in the trilogy here. The second The Damned Season I reviewed here.
It is 1948. Italy's fate is soon to be decided in bitterly contested national elections. A man has been found dead in villa delle Oche, at the centre of Bologna's notorious red light district it is regarded at first as a suicide.
The man, Ricciotti Ermes, hanging from the rafters does have a noose around his neck but when the overturned stool is righted his feet don't reach the seat. Luckily Commissario De Luca is there to spot the anomaly.
Pugliase's thin lips curled into an incredulous smile. He ran to the door, stopping for a second at the door way to turn toward De Luca.
'Christ, Commissario,' he said. 'I sure am glad you're back!'
De Luca proceeds to investigate the case and he has to tiptoe through a difficult situation as his superiors of both political persuasions are intent on leaving the case as a suicide.
This is a fine historical crime novel with snappy dialogue and a real feel for the period. Carlo Lucarelli introduces each chapter with newspaper headlines of the day, a technique that adds to the atmosphere and the tension as the day of the election approaches.
FASCIST SQUADS ARMED BY CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS ATTACK JEWS IN THE ROMAN GHETTO
16 MILLION SLAVES IN SOVIET LABOR CAMPS
AMERICAN AID FOR ITALY:$11 MILLION IN FOOD AND GASOLINE
There is a lot packed into a few pages in this novel with so many different threads including the criminal investigation, the political infighting between Christian Democrats and Communists, De Luca's relations with his superiors, and also with the attractive brothel owner La Tripolina. But the dominating theme is the internal turmoil of De Luca torn between his duty and political and personal pressures. He is almost a metaphor for Italy itself tearing apart in that tumultuous election.
'I don't give a damn if they use me! I'm a policeman, Pugliese, it's my job and I'll take sides with anyone who lets me do my job.'............
'Is that why,' hissed Pugliese, coolly, 'you sided with the fascists?....'