Carlo Lucarelli started his De Luca trilogy off with a whimper. CARTE BLANCHE was a meandering mess, with far too many characters thrown into too small of a plot. The books have been of interest primarily because of their setting, the fascist and post-fascist period of Italy in the 1940s. But in the first book, politics were so central that one not already familiar with specifics of that time would have a hard go at it. I mentioned in my review that CARTE BLANCHE has the lowest rating on amazon and so I was not ready to give up on the books then.
Good thing I did not, because this second book in the trilogy, THE DAMNED SEASON, is a notable improvement. De Luca is back, this time on the lam as old fascists are being hunted down and killed for, well, for being fascists. De Luca is not political, though. He was, and is, just a cop and he answered to whatever power was in charge that gave the orders. A cop is a cop.
In this second book, the crime is more straight-forward, which works much better for a mere 100 pages or so. Politics play a role, but do not overwhelm and subsume the story. De Luca is picked up by a country cop investigating the murder of an entire family. The townsfolk are in fear of one nasty local thug, and the only girl in sight is so bitter, angry and hostile that one might prefer the firing squad. But a cop is a cop and there is a mass murder to solve.
Clues come together, and a good thing for De Luca. The local constable knows who De Luca is and, if results are not forthcoming from solving the murder, the local can get brownie points for turning De Luca in and letting the local communists take care of him. The interplay between the characters here is much better than in CARTE BLANCHE, no doubt because there just are not as many of them.
I read THE DAMNED SEASON with trepidation. After reading it though, I look forward to the third and final book, VIA DELLE OCHO, with anticipation.