Top positive review
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Almost Blue, Carlo Lucarelli
on 11 September 2004
I was surprised to find this on the CWA Gold Dagger shortlist last year, having never previously heard of Lucarelli. He's an author with many strings to his bow: Not only does he write very sucessful Italian noir crime novels, but he hosts a late-night TV show that focuses on unsolved crimes (think an Italian Nick Ross, if that's not too weird), edits an online magazine, teaches writing in Turin, and sings in a punk rock band.
As I say, I was surprised, but having read it now, I'm not at all, because this is an absolutely excellent crime novel. Let me start by saying, I love short books, and this is definitely one of them, at only about 170 pages. Short books can be read quickly, and can provide the same payoff as reading a novel, if done absolutely right. And this one is. Novels like this that condense plots that other authors would use hundreds of pages for into a mere 170, show just how much superfluity is packed into many novels. Because Almost Blue is none less rewarding, and is practically stuffed with plot. The result is a quick, immediately engaging read. As The Guardian blurb on the cover says, this is a "compact and powerful masterpiece".
It's darn original, too. Set in Bologna, it's a dark serial killer story. On the trail is Inspectore Grazia Negro, who's an officer in a new task-force that's just been set-up, and is rather just finding its feet and its confidence. Simone is blind, and lives in a room at the top of his mother's house. All day, he listens to his record player in between bouts of tuning into a radio scanner that picks up the voices of people all across the city. This is hobby. Listening to Bologna's inhabitants, imagining them as they go about their lives and, frequently, their illicit loves. One day, though, Simone is terrified when he tunes into the killer.
As I say, it's a completely original book. (Oonagh Stransky's excellent, fluent translation shouldn't go without a mention, either. Nor should Lucarelli's absolutely remarkable descriptions of sound, which Simone is of course so attuned to.) Almost Blue is an excellent English-language debut from a talented crime writer. Short, sharp, and very thrilling. I look forward to more. Definitely.