The Damned Season Paperback – May 1 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Set in 1946, Lucarelli's taut middle volume of his De Luca trilogy (after Carte Blanche) finds Commissario De Luca, who was a police officer during the Mussolini regime, in a perilous position. Under an assumed name, De Luca is just trying to survive any way he can when a member of the Partisan Police catches him in the woods outside Ravenna and drags him into an investigation of a triple homicide. Despite his instincts for self-preservation, De Luca can't refrain from making observations that display his professional expertise. When he's seduced by the local strongman's girlfriend, De Luca finds himself further at risk. While many authors have written of the conflicts faced by honest police officers in Nazi Germany, few American readers will be familiar with the aftermath of WWII in Italy, and Lucarelli excels at portraying fear and suspicion in a country struggling to recover from its national trauma. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The second in the De Luca Trilogy to appear in the U.S. is set in 1946 and finds the former Commisario De Luca dodging partisan reprisals for the role he played as a member of the secret police under Mussolini. When he's recognized by a partisan in an isolated village between Bologna and Rome, De Luca--torn between the need to keep a low profile and the inevitable curiosity he feels in the face of an unsolved crime--reluctantly agrees to help investigate a double murder with political implications. The moral ambiguity at the heart of Italy's postwar power struggle permeates the action in this tense, atmospheric tale. The hero's own ambiguity about his actions during the war, as well as his cynical view of the postwar world, links him to other ideologically imperiled investigators (Arkady Renko in Martin Cruz Smith's Moscow-set series, for example), but the most notable aspect of this trilogy is Lucarelli's ability to give texture to a particular historical moment. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
One year and another he walked the streets,
And a thousand shrugs and hoots
Met him in the shoulders and mouths he passed."
At the conclusion of Carlo Lucarelli's "Carte Blanche" in the spring of 1945, the fascist government of Italy had just collapsed and Commissario (Investigator) De Luca, like many officials of all stripes tarred with the brush of employment by the regime, was last seen fleeing for parts unknown. Volume II of Lucarelli's De Luca Trilogy, "The Damned Season", finds Commissario De Luca in hiding, using a false identity, wandering through the towns and villages of northern Italy just trying to get by and avoid arrest by former partisans now in control of large areas of Italy. As luck would have it, De Luca stumbles into a village in which a triple homicide has just been committed. As fate would have it the partisan police officer tasked with investigating the murders recognizes De Luca and makes De Luca an offer he can't refuse, help me solve the murder and I will preserve you new identity or get arrested and executed. De Luca accepts the offer not just because of his strong desire for self-preservation but his almost compulsive desire to actually do what a detective does best - solve crimes.
The plot is not complex and although interesting not the main reason why this book was worth reading. As drawn by Lucarelli, De Luca is a pretty compelling figure. As noted in a Preface to the book the character of De Luca was formed after Lucarelli interviewed a police officer whose career spanned most of the middle years of the 20th-century. (The preface actually does a great job in setting up the essential character of De Luca and should not be overlooked.) He is neither a hero nor an antihero. He seems to want to be nothing more than to be a detective yet at the same time he cannot quite convince even himself that his brief stint in Mussolini's secret police did not stain his career. He may assert that he'd never tortured anyone and left the secret police as soon as he could but he knows that in post-war Italy any connection to the former regime are enough to doom him. Still, he manages to put all this aside and proceeds to help untangle the web of political, cultural and other intrigues that led to a brutal series of murder. This is what he does best and so solving crimes is what he will do even if he risks exposure and death.
Lucarelli's ability to recreate an atmosphere of Italy on the edge of chaos and anarchy in the post-war period brings "Damned Season" to life. I got a real sense of time and place while reading "Damned Season" just as I did in reading "Carte Blanche". Apart from De Luca, Lucarelli does not invest a lot of time in presenting us with a full-blown character analysis of the key parties to the crime and its aftermath. We also don't get a lot of the internal life of De Luca but De Luca's actions tend to speak for themselves and over the course of this second volume you begin to get a feel for his personality without having had Lucarelli spell it out for me. On the downside, Lucarelli doesn't invest a lot of time on his secondary characters so there is something of a disconnect between our perception of De Luca based on a pretty good sense of the character and the remaining characters who do come across sometimes as more of stick-figures rather than flesh and blood characters. However, Lucarelli's fast-paced sense of action and the very convincing portrait he draws of post-war life in northern Italy more than makes up for these deficiencies.
"The Damned Season" was a good sequel to "Carte Blanche". The third and final volume (Via delle Oche) is, apparently, due out soon. I've read and enjoyed Volumes One and Two and look forward to the conclusion. L. Fleisig
There is not a misstep in the plot, tone or characterizations. It gives glimpses into De Luca's past and hints at his future. The reader will certainly be beguiled and fascinated by this noir tale.
But if you want an engrossing story that will show you a very different view of Italy than Salvo Montalbano, read this.
This is Italy at the bitter end of World War II. And if the book is disjointed, confused and cynical, so was that period in Italy. The "good guys" mostly win at the end. Trouble is figuring out if they are "good".
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.
Don't overlook the other two titles in the series -- "Carte Blanche" and "Via delle Oche."