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on May 5, 2002
I bought this after it had been featured on NPR, and found it a compelling and disturbing read. The way that the author alternates POV's is challenging. As you are reading, you are not often able to immediately determine who is speaking. Chapter trasition is inspired, as well. The violence is described in a manner that is spine-chilling without being repulsive. This is a great read for someone bored with the cookie cutter way thrillers are currently written. It is refreshingly short and well-paced.
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on August 1, 2002
Lucareelli from the first chapther grabs the readers attention and doesn't let go to the chilling ending. It not only is exciting murder thriller but also offers insight into cultural aspects of Modern day Italy. A word of warning the novel isn't for the faint of heart. I still have trouble sleeping at night I keep waking imaging the killer is in my room.
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on April 5, 2002
Meant to give 4 stars. Very Nice translation. Good Mystery.
What a delight to happen upon this Lucarelli book! Grazia Negro enters the book world of female cop detectives for English readers with this translation. This is a crime noir novel with signifigant twists from the ordinary. Besides the fast-paced complelling plot of tracking the serial killer, these pages also invite the reader into the world of Simone, a blind Bologna native, who provides the distinctive experience of seeing through a blind man's senses -unheard of in the usual crime/detective novel. The effect is poetic, lyrical, and fresh. The quality of translation is clear in that the reader also perceives the richness of the Italian experience, with just enough original Italian phrasing left by Stransky and with Lucarelli's pictoral journeys through the city to provide these nuances. Lucarelli, musician that he is, serendipidiously provides morsels of contemporary music which the xgen folks particularly will enjoy: NIN, Chet Baker, Costello and more.
Crime buffs, book-lovers who enjoy thrillers and mysteries, especially those jaded by books in those genre which seem written in canned formulas these days, will welcome this new arrival.
If Lucarelli has 10 more untranslated novels, keep them coming Ms. Stransky. An eager audience awaits.
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on December 5, 2001
City Lights Books in San Francisco continues its avant-garde mission with the launching of its own "Noir" crime series, and Carlo Lucarelli's "Almost Blue" is a superlative debut thriller. A serial killer dubbed the Iguana slashes university students in Bologna and assumes their identities. Detective Grazia Negro, recently transplanted from Rome and unfamiliar with this other city, ends up relying upon Simone, a blind broad-band radio voyeur, to help locate the Iguana through his "green" voice. Lucarelli has crafted a word collage to tell the tale -- multiple first person voices, thoughts interwoven with descriptions, music and lyrics by Chet Baker, Elvis Costello, and Nine Inch Nails. Oonagh Stransky's translation is amazing; I wonder if she wrote this, it's that good. If you like the "Mask Noir" series from Serpent's Tail and Soho Crime series authors, you'll love this.
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Although his ten previous books have been widely translated into French and German, this slim thriller marks Italian author Lucarelli's first appearance in English. The book is one of three in a series starring female Detective Grazia Negro, a member of a special task force on serial killers not unlike the FBI team portrayed in Silence of the Lambs. She is brought from Rome to help track down a serial killer preying on university students in Bologna. Her one good lead comes from a blind man who sits in his room all day listening to an array of scanners picking up cell phone conversations, police scanners, and whatnot. The story alternates three first-person narratives: the detective's, the blind man's, and the killer's. The detective and killer's threads are fairly straightforward and what you might expect (she's tough but gets no respect from anyone, and he's mad mad mad) however Lucarelli's ability to take you into the blind man's world of "colored" voices is excellent.
However, once you get past the novelty of the blind assistant, and the excellent translation which conveys his world, the story is fairly run of the mill. There's a frisson of love/sex which comes across as unnecessary, and, as with most serial killer stories, the underlying motivation for the killings isn't really intriguing, and the hero is always one step behind the killer until the climactic showdown. However, the book does paint a decently grimy portrait of the seedier side of Bologna, and it's a quick read, so I'd say it's worth checking out. It was made into an Italian film which, as of this writing, has not made it to video stores in the US.
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on August 8, 2009
Europian crime novels are different kettle of fish. Those of us who read only American mysteries and thrillers are bound to be confused. Carlo Lucarelli is a very good example of contemporary crime writing in Europe. " Almost Blue" is a short, graphic book with dark characters and the solution that doesn't neatly wrap up every detail. It feels like a swift gust of violent wind, that surprises and terrifies you, and moves on in it's own twisted world. Great introduction to a very talented Italian writer.
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on October 20, 2008
Dive in and read this even though it might feel a little hard to get into at first. You won't realize how completely immersed you've become until the last few pages !
So many levels of human consciousness are explored expertly with so few pages ! The translation is extraordinary. Bravo Lucarelli ! Brava Oonagh Stransky !
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VINE VOICEon February 24, 2004
In Bologna, Italy, students are being killed by a serial killer- one who assumes the identity of the murdered person. Assigned to the case is Grazia Negro, a detective. Grazia uses a blind man, Simone Martini, who listens to the city on a scanner, to try to apprehend the killer. As usual the crimes become more personal where eventually Grazia, herself, becomes a possible target.
ALMOST BLUE is a very well written psychological suspense drama. It is quite unique in its structure. Chapters or actually sections alternate with point of view between the killer's, Simone's and Grazia. The chapters are quite short keeping the pacing rapid throughout. The length of the book is more that of a novella yet works perfectly for the drama portrayed. The end result is a chilling portrayal of the criminal mind.
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on October 21, 2009
Carlo Lucarelli is one of Italy's best crime writers and "Almost Blue" certainly adds to his reputation as a thoughtful and creative author.
The setting for this story is Bologna, a major university center, where a serial killer is at work among the student population. It has taken the Italian police sometime to reach the conclusion that six murders are connected, but the elite forensic science unit that has made the connection is on the scene in the persona of Inspector Grazia Negro. She becomes one of the three narrators of this tale and her own personal/professional stories become part of the telling.

The rest of the story's narration is shared by the serial killer and Simone Martini, a young blind man who lives an isolated world of others' radio/phone conversations and colors that he assigns to their voices. It is Simone who holds the key to the serial killer's identity and it is Simone who eventually becomes the killer's obsession and target.

Lucarelli has created an intense and complex story that grabs the reader after a few pages of adjustment to the tone and organizaton of the book. Highly recommended.
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on June 17, 2004
The basic story is not remarkable. Young cop Grazia Negro is pursuing a serial killer of university students in Bologna. The male cops undersestimate her, and the bodies are piling up. What is remarkable about "Almost Blue" is that center of the story is Simone, a young blind man who navigates the world by smell and characterizes his experiences according to colors he has never seen. Green voices are bad. Blue voices are good. Simone spends his time in his room listening to the world on his scanners with jazz playing in the background. One night, Simone hears the "green" voice of a man who is a serial killer. Grazia finds her way to Simone and enlists his help in finding the killer. What happens after that is disappointing, not to say bizarre, from the perspective of crime fiction, but Simone is so interesting that he almost makes the book worth reading.
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