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.
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I have reviewed the first book in another of Carlo Lucarelli’s series, ALMOST BLUE, which I liked a little more than this one.
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My rating 3/5
Translator Michael Reynolds
Publisher Europoa [This translation 2006, original edition 1990]
Length 108 pages
Book Series #1 in Commissario De Luca Trilogy
Source Borrowed from the library
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