The De Luca Trilogy by Carlo Lucarelli [Review]

Carte Blanche; The Damned Season; Via delle Oche.

Lucarelli has written a fine trilogy of detective novellas, featuring an archetypal “honest copper”, Commissario de Luca. De Luca is a straight policeman pitched into the chaos of Italy at the end of the War, based on a policeman the author met who rejected the idea that his personal politics affected his job.

Obviously as an anarchist, this is a supposition that I would reject – your personal politics do affect how you do your job. And aside from the everyday regularities of the detective novel, the interesting part of this is the way de Luca navigates the different political set-ups; the crumbling fascism of the Salo Republic in “Carte Blanche”; the informal control of Communist partisans in “The Damned Season”; and the restoration of Democracy in the final novel.

All the books feature political obstacles in the way of de Luca solving the case, and even more barriers to his findings being acted on by prosecutors. It’s also clear that all the respective systems, regardless of the importance they put on the rule of law, ignore it when it suits them. So, a fascist police unit kills one of de Luca’s colleagues during an investigation; the corruption of the Partisan leaders is ignored; and people are killed merely to protect a religious figure’s reputation.

De Luca flees the chaos of the collapse of fascism; is arrested at the end of the second book and the end of the third finds him being purged from the police, the job he has assiduously done, for not kowtowing to the politicians. The unspoken assumption from those in authority is he must have done things which take him beyond the pale during the fascist era. He has worked as a “good policeman” under fascism and communism, though not without problems. However, it is Democracy, with its supposed high ideals that cannot accept his single-minded pursuit of a solution to the case. For the honest cop, all political systems are, in the end, the same.