Review: CARTE BLANCHE by Carlo Lucarelli

I have an overwhelming urge to make this a very short review, in keeping with the book which comes in at less than a hundred pages that contain any writing.

April 1945 must be in the running for most chaotic time of Italian political history (though it does have some stiff competition) as the Fascist regime is in its last days and its powerful supporters scramble to escape the country or distance themselves from the formerly powerful leaders. Amidst all this Commissario De Luca has transferred back to the ‘normal’ police from the military/political police and is tasked with finding the murderer of a wealthy playboy Vittorio Rehinard. Although wary of the political fallout from the investigation De Luca is promised he will have full cooperation but even so he spends at least as much time untangling the political mess surrounding the case as he does narrowing down the suspect pool.

What I should have been thinking about in the hour or so it took to read this novella was the problems faced by a basically good (?) man trying to do a difficult job when most people involved in the case have competing agendas. And for some of the time I did manage to focus on this aspect of the book. But for a lot of it I have to admit to getting sidetracked by wondering whether the author has it in for women. To be fair most of the characters of either gender in CARTE BLANCHE are pretty horrible but, to me, the author seemed to be making some kind of point with the fact that all the women in the book are evil temptresses or worthless functionaries and both kinds are universally treated with contempt by all and sundry (De Luca included).

There is certainly a cloying atmosphere created here and there is enough of interest to make me want to read the other two books in the trilogy. But for someone who has complained often about the padded length of much modern crime fiction I’m undoubtedly going to sound like a contrarian when I say that for me this book was too short. The loose ends and lack of character depth necessitated by the brevity left me, ultimately, not entirely satisfied.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

CARTE BLANCHE has been reviewed at Crime ScrapsEuro Crime, Petrona and The Game’s Afoot

I have reviewed the first book in another of Carlo Lucarelli’s series, ALMOST BLUE, which I liked a little more than this one.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 3/5
Translator Michael Reynolds
Publisher Europoa [This translation 2006, original edition 1990]
ISBN 9781933372150
Length 108 pages
Format paperback
Book Series #1 in Commissario De Luca Trilogy
Source Borrowed from the library
Creative Commons Licence
This work by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

This entry was posted in book review, Carlo Lucarelli, Italy. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Review: CARTE BLANCHE by Carlo Lucarelli

  1. Kathy D. says:

    Thanks for the review. It saved me from trying to find this book, or this series. One of the last things I want to read is a book with bad portrayals of women characters. This seems to crop up in Italian crime fiction quite frequently.
    I’ll put up with a bit of it with Montalbano and Carofiglio, but more than that, I don’t think so.


  2. Sarah says:

    You’re not tempting me I have to say. Although I love the book cover.


  3. Bernadette – I do like historical fiction and on that score, I might be tempted to try this, but after reading your excellent review, now I’m thinking I’ll wait. I prefer books with characters for whom I can feel at least some sympathy, and a book that depicts all the female character negatively? Maybe not right now…


  4. Maxine says:

    He should have stuck all three novel(la)s into one, I think. I did enjoy it but felt a bit “short changed” by it – literally in fact as I paid more than £8 for it and that was with the Amazon discount.


  5. Maxine says:

    PS and don’t get me on the way women are almost universally portrayed in Italian crime (or any other Italian?) fiction – driven by sex and or sex/money, basically (or they are old women who cook). I can kind of live with it until the books treat 16 year old girls in this way too (ie endorsed by author) though I have not read this particular author doing this I have to admit.


  6. charlotte says:

    Short books, novellas. Hmm. Thanks to your review, I’ll not be reading this. Outside of the mystery genre, I have loved a short book by Patrick Leigh Fermor, who wrote about his time (in the early 60s perhaps) where he sought some quiet by staying in several monasteries in France. While I usually pass on books as I read them, this work has remained on my shelf.


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