There is something about curling up with a crime fiction book, more so than other genres, that really draws you in. Whether it is the thrill of working out who the killer is, the superior feeling of knowing your hunch was right all along or the suspense that builds as you frantically turn the pages to find out whether the hero will escape unscathed.
While it’s been Scandi crime that dominated our bookshelves, TV and headlines for the past couple of years, there’s a new area of Europe bubbling with hidden passions and crimes just waiting to grab your imagination and take it for a thrilling ride.
For those who like their crime writing enflamed by the heat of the Mediterranean sun not chilled by Swedish snow, Italian crime writing hits the spot. There’s something about the crepuscular unease that floats down misty Venice back alleys and haunts the ancient streets of Rome that marries so well with crime fiction. The passions, the gorgeous scenery, the shady underworld of the Mafia all combine to create a particular brand of crime noir. So whether you’re lounging on the Riveria looking for a book to occupy you as you await your next Aperol Spritz or trying to evoke the heady and dangerous atmosphere of Southern summers as you huddle in your rain soaked London bedroom, Italian crime is the new genre on the scene.
Edited by Maxim Jakubowski
Akashic Books, £9.99, p/b, 9781617750731
While La Serenissima deserves its nomenclature, having enraptured and inspired centuries of writers, artists and tourists from Byron to Tintoretto, beneath the murky surface of the lagoon and behind the façade’s of the palazzos lurk hidden secrets and crimes; the reality behind the picture perfect postcards. In Venice Noir the historical influence of commerce and death comes to life in tales of treachery, crime and lost souls, inhabited by locals and visitors alike.
Breaching the still, deadly waters of the lagoon and venturing far beyond Piazza San Marco, writers from across the globe evoke magic, decay, beauty and despair against the backdrop of a universally fascinating city. A dizzy, evocative waltz of sun and noir between gondolas, bridges and churches creates a new and disturbing vision of an already mysterious place. With contributions from Peter James, Emily St. John Mandel, Mike Hodges, Barbara Baraldi and many more.
By Gianrico Carofiglio
Bitter Lemon Press, £8.99, p/b, 9781908524232
Confronting the dark side of the human soul, this fast-paced story of fall and redemption is a glimpse into the life of Roberto Marías. Every week he crosses Rome on foot to arrive at his psychiatrist’s office. There, he often sits in silence, stumped by the ritual—but sometimes crucial memories come to the surface. He remembers when he was a child and used to surf with his father. He remembers the treacherous years he spent working as an under-cover carabinieri, years that taught him how cynicism and corruption are not merely external influences, but also exist within us. He has lived an intoxicating and crushing life, but now his psychiatrist’s words, the hypnotic strolls through Rome, and a meeting with a woman named Emma—who like Roberto is ravaged by a profound guilt—are beginning to revive him. And when eleven-year-old Giacomo asks Roberto to help him conquer his nightmares, Roberto at last achieves a true rebirth.
Part of Gianrico Carofiglio’s Guido Guerrieri series, The Silence of the Wave is a complex, aching web of stories in one: A woman on the run from her past. A child on the run from reality. A man on the run from himself. Carogiflio is one of Italy’s bestselling authors – and a member of the Italian senate, with a background in prosecuting Mafiosos. The Silence of the Wave was shortlisted for Italy’s most prestigious literary prize, The Premio Strega, in 2012.
By Massimo Carlotto
Europa, £9.99, p/b, 9781609451141
Giorgio Pellegrini, the unforgettable hero of The Goodbye Kiss, has been living an “honest” life for eleven years. But that’s about to change. His lawyer has been deceiving him and now Giorgio is forced into service as an unwilling errand boy for an organized crime syndicate. At one time, Giorgio wouldn’t have thought twice about robbing, kidnapping and killing in order to get what he wanted, but these days he realises he’s too old in the tooth to face his enemies head-on. To return to his peaceful life as a successful businessman he’s going to have to find another way to shake off the mob. Fortunately, Giorgio’s circumstances may have changed, but deep down he’s still the ruthless killer he used to be.
The hardest trick to pull off: a noir tale narrated by the bad guy. And yet Massimo Carlotto manages to do so effortlessly, and at the same time he offers a sharp insight into the intersecting worlds of corrupt politics and organised crime.
By Giorgio Scerbanenco
A lawyer who has spent time in prison with Duca is found drowned in one of the Navigli, the Milanese canals. Duca is contacted by a friend of the dead lawyer to perform surgery on a woman who after the operation confesses that although she is due to marry a wealthy butcher, is really in love with another man, the friend of the lawyer. Shortly afterwards, she is killed together with her lover. Duca discovers that the two events are linked and starts to unravel an arms and drugs trafficking business, centred in an understated trattoria, of which the two were part.
The second in a series, following A Private Venus, Betrayalwas the winner of the Grand Prix de la Litterature Policiere and is considered a classic of Italian crime fiction.