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Carte Blanche Paperback – July 1, 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Commissario De Luca Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chaotic, fascist Italy is the tantalizing setting for the first entry in Lucarelli's (Almost Blue) De Luca trilogy. In the final year of WWII, while opportunism, desperation and resistance run rampant, Rehinard Vittorio, a well-connected Fascist, drug dealer and philanderer, is stabbed to death and castrated, leaving behind no dearth of suspects for the tortured insomniac, Commissario De Luca, to investigate. Was the murderer Rehinard's boss, the foreign affairs minister who's collaborating with the British, or the minister's morphine-addicted and sexually compromised daughter? How about the minister's political rival, whose wife and son are trying to buy their way into neutral Switzerland with drug profits? De Luca's a complex man who believes the police shouldn't be used as political goons, even as his investigation draws him deeper into the seedy underworld of a crumbling regime. His astutely rendered inner turmoil makes him an intriguing protagonist, but the other characters never spring to life. Lucarelli also breezes through the minutiae of Italian Fascism, which may leave American readers in the lurch, but these faults fail to overpower the trenchant grit of this excursion into Italian noir. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Author of the Grazia Negro series set in contemporary Bologna (see "The Hard-Boiled Gazetteer to Italy," p.10), Lucarelli also writes stand-alones. This one, set in Milan near the end of World War II, finds the country in chaos, with the south liberated by the Allies and the north under the control of the Nazis and a collaborationist government run by Mussolini. Commisario De Luca is a policeman caught between the various factions (there were 14 different police forces in Milan at the time) and trying to solve the murder of a local power broker. Following the tangled plot proves tough sledding, but the appeal here isn't story but mood: the darkened city streets, teeming with danger, both imagined and real; the trench-coated hero, dodging from shadow to shadow, hoping to get to the bottom of the problem in front of him but, contrarily, trying to stay off everybody's radar. This is Alan Furst country, to be sure, and if Lucarelli isn't quite as accessible to American readers as Furst, there is an extra layer of authenticity here that makes it all worthwhile. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions; English Edition edition (July 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193337215X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933372150
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 6 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #957,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jana L.Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 5, 2009
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American and British forces invaded Sicily in 1943 and Il Duce was voted out of power by his own Grand Council. He was arrested by the police upon leaving a meeting with King Vittorio Emanuele, who told him that the war was lost. The dictator's 20 year regime was thus officially terminated. Aided by the Germans, Mussolini escaped and was immediately taken to Germany for an audience with Hitler. There, the Fuehrer told him that unless he agreed to return home and form a new fascist state in Northern Italy, the Germans would destroy Milan, Genoa and Turin. Mussolini agreed to set up a new regime, the Italian Social Republic, which would be propped up by the German army.

"Carte Blanche" is set in Northern Italy, April, 1945. WWII is about to end and the Allied forces are closing in on Milan. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, as well as hundreds of Fascist Party members and government officials, are frantically attempting to flee Italy to Switzerland.

The country's entire power structure is collapsing. The author reflects this tumultuous period in his writing, "There is, above all enormous moral and political confusion that mixes together the desperation of those who know they are losing, the opportunism of those ready to change sides, the guilelessness of those who haven't understood anything, and even the desire for revenge in those who are about to arrive."

Commissario De Luca has just transferred from the "Brigate Nere," the Black Brigade, to the Questura, the regular police force. The Black Brigade, the Political Police, is one of the many paramilitary and police groups operating in the Italian Social Republic. De Luca is an extremely competent policeman and investigator who considers himself to be apolitical.
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If one were to concentrate only upon the plot of the crime, then the reader of the review would come to the conclusion that the story is quite banal. In fact, this is more a psychological study of the tormented soul of Comissario De Luca and the world he inhabits than a crime story. That is not to say that Carlo Lucarelli fails to present an interesting set of events concerning a murder, but rather there is so much more. In fact his greatest strength is his style that alludes to De Luca's past and the world in which he must function, as well as all the other characters even the guilt party.

One could call this a mystery novella at 108 pages and miss the depth and complexity that that one would find in another work of 300 pages.
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Detective plus history plus foreign country! Fascist Italy and a detective trying to stay above the political dangers. I enjoyed the whole series, three books. Found the 2nd and 3rd at the used book store but the 1st book was something I had to get on Amazon. Fast service and book was as advertised. Thanks!
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Carlo Lucarelli starts off his De Luca trilogy rather weakly, I am afraid, with the meandering CARTE BLANCHE. Apparently quite successful in his native Italy, I must assume it was a hit because of the period in which it was set, with Italian fascism playing a supporting role, rather than the actual mystery or storytelling itself.

The book opens with a stiff. He was apparently some big wig and Commissario De Luca is assigned to figure out whodunit. De Luca fashions himself as just a cop trying to do his job straight. But in a totalitarian society, politics is always there and will be injected into every situation whether it should be or not and whether it is welcome or not. De Luca has some tough choices to make as a result.

The book moves briskly and focuses on the action. The lack of deep characterization did not bother me. This is noir, after all. These people should not have depth. But Lucarelli throws so many characters into the mix in such a short period of time that, even at a meager 100+ pages, CARTE BLANCHE required a score card to keep everyone straight. Developing the actual action a bit more would have gone a long way. I see that, of the three books in the trilogy, this one has the lowest collective rating on amazon. Maybe I will not give up on this series yet, but I do hope the next one is better.
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It is April, 1945. Mussolini's regime is in its death throes, clinging to power in the north of Italy. Chaos and anarchy is rapidly replacing repression and order as the predominant feature of Italian life. Yet there is still some semblance of law and order so when a prominent and quite unsavory member of Mussolini's Republican Party is murdered, the police are called to the scene to investigate the crime. The crime is deemed sufficiently important for the police to be granted `carte blanche', to take any means necessary to solve the murder. Commisario De Luca is assigned to lead the investigation and his investigation is the heart of Carlo Lucarelli's enjoyable short novel "Carte Blanche".

"Carte Blanche", the first volume in what is known as the De Luca Trilogy, is rich in storytelling and atmosphere. As drawn by Lucarelli, De Luca is an interesting character. He is neither a hero nor an antihero. He seems to want to be nothing more than to be a detective yet as the story opens he has just transferred back to the regular police force after a stint with the secret police. He'd left because he didn't like that sort of work and seems quite willing to point out that no, he'd never tortured anyone. He is savvy enough to know that an investigation like this is one with political undercurrents that could put him in danger but his compulsion to gather facts and put together the pieces of a puzzle outweighs his sense of caution. As a result we see a story where De Luca persists in pursuing an investigation even when all his instincts tell him he is walking through a minefield.

The strength of "Carte Blanche" lies primarily in Lucarelli's ability to create an atmosphere of Italy on the edge of chaos. I got a real sense of time and place while reading "Carte Blanche".
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