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Category Archive for 'Mystery, Thriller, Noir'

Maurizio de Giovanni’s Commissario Ricciardi’s mysteries, hugely popular in Italy and Europe, are now attracting large numbers of readers from the US and UK. Intriguing, sometimes wryly humorous characters living everyday lives in 1930s Naples, then ruled by Benito Mussolini, provide insights into the period and its fraught atmosphere. For two characters, Commissario Ricciardi and his partner Brigadier Rafaele Maione, “every day life” consists of police work, often dangerous, as they investigate murders and try to stay on the good side of some of their politically connected superiors. One characteristic of de Giovanni’s novels which has made them especially popular is that a group of appealing characters repeats throughout the series, and their personal stories and personalities continue to develop in succeeding narratives. The action starts with a love story in which fifteen-year-old Cettina and seventeen-year-old Vincenzo Sannino fall desperately in love, though World War II is looming and Vincenzo is not able to support Cettina adequately. His only hope is to take his chances in America, hoping that he can find a job and earn enough money to return to Naples as a success. He does not return for sixteen years. Cettina has changed since then.

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Marseilles, unlike many other noir settings, has always had a large number of culturally diverse populations within the city, each with its own special characteristics, values, and relationships with the French people, the police, and the political establishment. The cultural variety comes into play in this novel, TOTAL CHAOS, involving French criminals, Italian criminals who have moved to Marseilles, Algerian immigrants who believe they have been driven to crime for economic reasons, and other criminal elements who cross international borders with their influence. As a result, this noir novel feels broader, darker, and more challenging than most other noir novels. Main character Fabio Montale, who grew up in an under-populated seaside area outside of Marseilles, has chosen, ultimately, to avoid the life of an outsider by becoming a Marseilles police detective, a job he has held for twenty years. When Fabio’s two closest friends from childhood are murdered, however, he decides that his own honor demands that he investigate and avenge these deaths himself. He recognizes that he “needed boundaries, rules, codes. Something to hold on to. Every step I was about to take would move me farther away from the law…” Published originally in 1995, this is the first of the Marseilles trilogy.

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Few other recent mystery thrillers have accumulated anything like the number of prizes and awards as The Dying Detective by Leif GW Persson, a former adviser to the Swedish Ministry of Justice, a renowned psychological profiler, and currently a professor at the Swedish National Police Board. This novel, recently released in English, attests not only to Persson’s knowledge of criminal behavior and criminal justice, but also to his ability to create intriguing but decidedly “normal” characters and show them in situations which challenge all their abilities. By using characters who are not exotic, however clever and talented they may be in their knowledge of police procedure, Persson allows the reader to identify with them in a series of conundrums which continue without letup for the entire novel as the main character and his associates try to catch the terrible killer of a nine-year-old girl. This is the best organized and developed mystery novel I have read in years. It is complex enough that I found it helpful to create a character list, but each character has a clear place in the action, which develops in meticulous order. The image of an intricate puzzle, though trite, is unavoidable, as Persson adds little piece to little piece to develop and fill in the story of Yasmine and her murder, along with the people in her life who have survived her. The conclusion is a classic, resolving some of the questions still left with only three pages to go, while also, importantly, leaving some questions without direct answers. Persson trusts that his readers have paid attention. The final scene is not open to question if that is the case.

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In this big, entertaining can’t-put-it-downer set in Corsica, best-selling French author Michel Bussi tells the story surrounding a terrible car accident which claimed the lives of three people in 1989 – the mother, father, and adored older brother of fifteen-year-old Clotilde Idrissi. Though she was injured, Clotilde survived the accident when the car her father was driving careened off a cliff, but she was so traumatized in the accident’s aftermath that she has never set foot on Corsica since then. Now, twenty-seven years have passed, and Clotilde has finally returned to the island from France with her husband Franck and her teenage daughter Valentine (Valou), hoping to resolve her residual fears and her questions about the accident. The exotic setting on Corsica, one of the eighteen regions of France, adds to the excitement, revealing a society more like that of Sicily and or Sardinia than to Paris, its people honoring family traditions and histories that go back many generations. Many exciting mysteries unfold in this novel which is great fun but could have been condensed a bit. see full review.

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Writing a complex novel which is the epitome of Irish noir, author Gene Kerrigan explores the gray areas separating clearly right from clearly wrong, and blurring the lines between good and evil so completely that it is impossible to find anyone in the novel who is not, at some level, a blend of both good and evil. Standing on the O’Connell Bridge over the River Liffey, contemplating his future actions, Tidey believes that he has no safe options: a banker has been murdered, a nun’s life is in danger, and his own career is in jeopardy, regardless of whether or not he carries out the only plan of action he can think of. There was “No moral thing to do. But something had to be done.” Through a series of murders and threats, Tidey keeps his focus on justice, not because he has an idealized concept of it but because he believes that justice may sometimes be achieved without the interference of the courts.

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