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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 September 2008
THE DAMNED SEASON (Pol. Proc-Comm. De Luca-Italy-1945) - VG
Lucarelli, Carlo - 2nd in Trilogy
Europa Editions, 1991/2007, US Trade paperback - ISBN: 9781933372273

First Sentence: There was a land mine in the middle of the trail.

The Allies have come to Italy and Commissario De Luca is exhausted, hungry and traveling with false papers as his name is on the list of those wanted for working with the Social Republic. He is found by a young officer, Brigadier Leonardi, who wants to be good policeman solving crimes. He saw De Luca at a police-training course and offers to keep De Luca's identity a secret in exchange for showing him how to solve the murder of four people and a dog.

The translation from Italian to English does seem a bit awkward at times, but not so much as to every stop me, and while this is the second book of a trilogy, the mystery does stand alone.

The plot is a puzzle and I was fascinated watching De Luca pick up each small piece and put it in place. Having the book set in such a period of political uncertainly gave the story an element of suspense, but it is really a murder investigation. De Luca said it best "This is not a moral battle between the good guys and the bad buys, Brigadier," he said. "For us, homicide is simply a physical fact, a question of legal responsibility."

There is very little, basically no, character development which would usually annoy me. The book is totally plot driven, and I find the plot so interesting, I didn't mind. What little development there was of De Luca makes him a very human and interesting character.

As with the first book of the Trilogy, at the end the murder is solved but De Luca's future is unknown. I know I'll be reading Part III to find out.
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One man damned as a wrongheaded fool.
One year and another he walked the streets,
And a thousand shrugs and hoots
Met him in the shoulders and mouths he passed."

Carl Sandburg.

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".
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on 31 August 2014
It starts in the sun, watching ants crawl around a land mine in the middle of the road. Then a voice shocks De Luca back into reality and the air is full of the smell and taste of fear.
This one, whilst still short and gripping and easily read in a day, is more slowly paced. You can almost hear the buzzing of the flies and the heat of the sun. The cool of the shade smells musty. This is the countryside. There's something brutal and basic about it. Evidence of brutal beatings and murder, dry blood. Pigs squeal as they are slaughtered... a chicken is plucked in the sun.
And you're there, with De Luca as he helps find a murderer, himself trying to hide, being hunted (if not for real then with suspicious dark glances... People seem over-friendly, over suspicious... Hands shaking, nose bleeds and fear. Fear permeates. De Luca's fear, the amateur policeman, Leonardo's fear.
And then, when there is no more need for fear because they know who you are it becomes clear...
Carlo Lucarelli is a master. He can do, in one small, lightweight book, easily read in a day, what others take page after page to do. He is a master at writing; nothing is embellished, you see and feel as if you are there: you smell the air, the damp cloying earth; feel the heat; taste the blood and the fear.
And it ends with corpses, you in the back of a lorry, handcuffs...
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on 12 August 2012
I have pretty much the same issues with The Damned Season as I did with the first book in the series, Carte Blanche. I think Lucarelli is a wonderful writer - I love his style and the way the story is told, but the book is simply too thin for me and the story underdeveloped (the book is less than 100 pages long). What I wanted as a reader was the story fleshed out to give more insight into De Luca's flight and the back story of the area and some of the locals, particularly the various victims and the partisans. As it stands, Lucarelli has pared it back as about as far as it'll go to tell a relatively complex story. It almost feels like an extended synopsis rather than a dense novella. In addition, the story wasn't as compelling as the first book, particularly as the ending was so flimsily resolved. So at one level, I really admired the writing, but at another I was left a little frustrated. Like the first book, I'm left with the sense that what is an okay novella could have been a minor masterpiece if extended and deepened. That said, I'm compelled to read the final installment to the trilogy.
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on 7 November 2014
Hard to read
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on 10 March 2016
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