Bodies in Bologna

Almost Blue by Carlo Lucarelli, translated by Oonagh Stransky.

Lucarelli is apparently an established author of over a dozen books, and a TV presenter to boot, but this is the first of his detective novels to get translated into English.

Ispettore Grazia Negro is part of a new group within the Italian constabulary set up to investigate serial murders.  Several students have been brutally murdered in Bologna, and they appear to be linked.  Grazia and her boss Vittorio Poletto  have arrived from Rome to take over the case.  Being a relative rookie, and female she has a hard job convincing the locals – until she shows the last photo.

Simone is blind. He spends his life in his attic room where he scans the airwaves and listens to jazzman Chet Baker, whose version of Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue is his favourite track. Simone ‘sees’ voices in colour, and one day he hears the killer’s ‘green’ voice.  Grazia and Simone together can catch him – but at great personal risk – will they get there in time?

At just 168 pages of ‘Italian noir’ the plot clips along at a fast pace. It’s original and expertly zips between Grazia and the police, Simone and the killer. There is also plenty of blood – indeed we’re thrown into it on the very first page, and it doesn’t let up.  In the three main characters, the murderer is truly monstrous, Simone is a revelation, and Grazia is feisty and likeable.  Of course as a woman detective, she has to prove herself by being working harder than all the men – sadly it seems ’twas ever thus, (I could have done without the author making her pre-menstrual too though!)

The fast pace and low page toll mean that more words have to count, and this this was an enjoyable read for the most part; would that more books embraced the less is more philosophy.  I would happily read more by this author, especially if Grazia is allowed to develop. (7/10)

Pub 2003 in the UK.  This edition – Vintage Books – 168pp. I bought this book.

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To buy this book from, click below:
Almost Blue by Carlo Lucarelli.

0 thoughts on “Bodies in Bologna

    • gaskella says:

      I love both crime novels and books set in Italy Harriet – that and the flash on the cover saying it had been nominated for the CWA Gold Dagger award was enough to make me pick it up.

  1. Jessica says:

    Sounds quite interesting, I dont normally go for detective books but the noir atmosphere and the fact that its not 500 pages long really appeals.

    • gaskella says:

      Jessica – ‘Italian noir’ was the tag the blurb gave it, I wouldn’t exactly call it noir given that Grazia, a policewoman, is the central character which would make it more police procedural in my book, but I suppose there are noirish aspects!
      It was a quick read which is a distinct advantage, and I’m looking forward to trying another by this author.

  2. sakura says:

    I have this on my wishlist:) I went through a phase of reading Italian crime fiction written by non-Italians (Donna Leon, Michael Dibdin, Magdalen Nabb, David Hewson) many years ago so I think it’s time I investigated some Italian crime writers. I’ve also heard good things about Camilleri.

    • gaskella says:

      I never took to Dibdin, but ought to try him again and I’ve not read Hewson. I’m working my way through Donna Leon and Nabb periodically too.

      However real Italian crime is now getting translated into English and I love Camilleri – Inspector Montalbano is a wonderful creation – you should read him Sakura. I’ve recently bought another Italian – Luigi Guicciardi – ‘Inspector Cataldo’s criminal summer’ which sounds great too.

  3. LizF says:

    There are other novels by Carlo Lucarelli which have been translated into English, Annabel – I’ve read this one and Grazia’s next case which is called Day After Day and very good. I got mine via the library and I seem to recall that the copies I read were hardback so it could be that they are not all in paperback.
    He has also written a trilogy featuring a male lead character which I hope to get from the library when it re-opens in a couple of weeks.
    I am looking out for the Guicciardi too and a book called River of Shadows by Valerio Varesi which looks intriguing and I am currently reading a book by Michele Giuttari -‘A Florentine Death’- although I’m not sure what to make of it yet.

    • gaskella says:

      We’re getting spoilt for choice with top class Italian crime novels these days! Giuttari is in my TBR pile now and I still have the Nabbs you kindly sent me to read …

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