Police Commisario (Inspector) De Luca is one of those cops who would like nothing more than to be left along to do his job. He doesn't care much for politics on a global or national scale and doesn't really want to play the sort of political games that could facilitate a cop's climb up the career ladder. But De Luca lives in a turbulent place (Bologna, Italy) during turbulent times (WWII and its immediate aftermath) and the fact that De Luca wants no part of politics does not mean that politics and intrigue won't plague him as he goes about his business. The result has been a trilogy of books that have provided entertaining police stories while at the same time painting a pretty detailed picture of what life may have been like in post-war northern Italy.
"Via Delle Oche" is the final volume in what has come to be known as "The De Luca Trilogy". The trilogy is set in northern Italy and takes us from the closing days of WWII, (Carte Blanche (De Luca Trilogy 1)) to the turbulent years immediately after the war (The Damned Season (De Luca Trilogy 2)) until 1948, the current volume, where a critical post-war national election is at hand. The cold war is raging in Europe and the election is thought to be a critical battlefield. Consequently, the Church, the powerful Italian Communist Party, and various secular partisan political groups engage in the sort of intrigue that would make Machiavelli proud. This election is of no immediate professional consequence for De Luca since he is now, upon his return to Bologna from `exile' in Damned Season, assigned to the vice squad. De Luca doesn't seem to mind the demotion all that much as it keeps him outside the political battles that effect the police force as much as any other Italian institution. But the fates and a murder in a bordello on the Via Delle Oche conspire to put De Luca back where he least wants to be: in the limelight walking a political tightrope.
The strength of "Via Delle Oche" lies in Lucarelli's ability to paint a pretty realistic-feeling portrait of postwar northern Italy in the years immediately after WWII. I got a real sense of time and place while reading these books. 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 the books I got a nice feel for his personality without having had Lucarelli spell it out for me.
Although the stories themselves are self-contained I think that the De Luca Trilogy needs to be read in sequence. By the time I came to "Via Delle Oche" the character of Commisario De Luca has been fully formed and the reader will miss out on a lot of context if they have not read the first two volumes. I enjoyed all three books.
All in all Via Delle Oche was a filling end to the De Luca trilogy.