Italian noir writer Massimo Carlotto has teamed up with screenwriter Marco Videtta to give us a bleak tale of corruption in the industrialized north east of Italy. The book is translated by Antony Shugaar, and the original title Nordest has been given a neat twist to the English Poisonville, which is apt on several levels.
The book is partly narrated by Francesco Vitelin, a rich young lawyer from one of the two families that run everything, including the justice system, in the region, and partly by a narrator who follows various other characters. Francesco will be taken into his father Antonio's very successful firm on his marriage to the beautiful lawyer Giovanna, who already works for Vitelin senior.
Francesco's future is assured as his father's firm represent the Torrefranchi Foundation, the local consortium which controls industry in the region.
Then just before their wedding Giovanna is murdered, and the superficial nature of everything around him is exposed. There are various sub plots scattered through the narrative, Giovanna's previous lover Filippo is deranged, and there is a gang of hoodlums carrying out a series of home invasion robberies, but most readers will easily guess the identity of the murderer. But this does not reduce the novel's impact. As Francesco, along with Giovanna's friend Carla, and one honest policeman begin to investigate they uncover other crimes and murders, that were covered up to ensure profit and position.
Small businessmen who had become arrogant with rivers of cash they had made in the eighties and nineties, and who were now wetting their pants at the prospect of being swept away by their hungry and ambitious Chinese rivals.
And the anger was growing rapidly because they couldn't blame the usual crowd of thieves running the government, now that the government was being run by people just like them-irate businessmen and media tycoons.
Poisonville was written in 2005 and deals with many of the major problems that face Western Europe; corporations moving factories to the non-regulated low labour cost countries of the East, illegal toxic waste disposal, the inability to control immigration, an irresponsible frenetic media and the treatment of small business by the banking system.
"Zuglio, that bastard son of a bitch," he snarled. "He was the bank officer who destroyed my business. I had a contract to manufacture furniture for a chain of hotels in Turkey. It was two solid years of production, but he cut off my line of credit, out of the blue, and demanded all the money back. It was a knockout blow."
You cannot really feel sympathy for any of the novel's characters who look down on ordinary workers from their position in society, even if like the Hermes clad Contessa Selvaggia they were not born into privilege. The message is far more important than the messengers in this dark factional satire.
Il Mattino states that Poisonville is a black fable that exposes that dark side of the wealth that has been generated over the last few decades.
La Republica tells us the novel is about Corruption. Cynicism. Illegality. Collusion.
In Poisonville the wealth makers have no loyalty to anything except profit, and locality, region, country, and even family mean nothing to them.
Is this the reality behind globalization, and the European Union?
Poisonville is another brilliant example of how crime fiction can tackle the problems, and attitudes, that non-fiction writers may be nervous of tackling.
"We're packing our bags," he added, after biting into a pastry. We're all heading for Romania. Fuck the Chinese, and fuck the tax collectors."
"Will you still be dealing in waste?"
"What about the others?"
He shrugged. "A lot of them are third -world immigrants, and they can just go back home, because we're sick and tired of blacks and Moroccans.