What's a Common Reader -- and what is Uncommon Reading?

Virginia Woolf defined a common reader as someone who is not a scholar; not a critic. A common reader "reads for his own pleasure rather than to impart knowledge or correct the opinions of others. Above all, he is guided by an instinct to create for himself, out of whatever odds and ends he can come by, some kind of whole." By that definition, I'm definitely a common reader -- reading an uncommonly large and diverse collection of books.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Europa Challenge: "I'm a policeman!"

That's what Commissario De Luca keeps insisting. After all, he has finally managed to transfer from the special political police to the regular police in the final days of Mussolini's fascist regime at the opening of Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli (published by Europa Editions, and read for my Europa Challenge.). But it's early 1945, and the Allied troops are approaching and the partisans gaining courage.

Against that backdrop, De Luca is called on to investigate the murder of a man close to the regime, with powerful friends and powerful enemies. Everyone seems to have a stake in the outcome -- or rather, in a particular outcome -- but De Luca stubbornly insists on continuing his quest for the real culprit, even as bodies pile up along the way. There's an intriguing twist at the end of this gritty, noir-ish and brief crime novel, one that makes me wonder how De Luca will fare in the next two books of Lucarelli's trilogy, which I'll certainly be reading.

This is a quick read, and an intriguing one. The idea of the stubborn cop pursuing "truth" even when those above him make it clear they don't want to hear it is hardly new (after all, I've just finished reading the very good novel, The Pericles Commission, by Gary Corby, which puts its hero in exactly the same kind of position.) But the writing and translation are both excellent, and the setting is almost perfectly designed for this kind of conflict: a cop who literally tries not to hear the sounds of torture when he revisits his old office in search of information.

A good start to the Europa Challenge, and a recommended book to those looking for a slightly different kind of mystery. I've rated it 3.8 stars; the only reason it isn't higher is that I prefer books that devote a bit more time and attention to character development, and while Lucarelli does accomplish a lot in a relatively skimpy number of pages, the book still left me wanting more.

1 comment:

  1. sometimes with crime fiction, character takes backseat to plot- but i'm like you, i like more development with the characters, too. but a fun plot can carry you along ok. :-)