Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli (Shane's book 3, 2008)

More Italian crime fiction, this time written by an Italian and set in April 1945.Italy has been split in two. The Allied south is now at war with the fascist north, where Commissario De Luca has just transferred from the feared Black Brigades back to the regular police.

His first case is the murder of Vittorio Rehinard, a member of the fascist party with some very powerful friends. In Ratking upsetting the wrong people can ruin your career but here, with numerous police forces operating independently and without sanction, it can mean death.

This is a short novel - a little over a hundred pages - and it feels sketch-like at times. Lucarelli develops characters concisely and, in the case of De Luca, with impressive depth but the dense plot unfolds almost too quickly. It can be difficult to work out exactly what's happening.

However, Lucarelli uses that to his advantage. The sense of a state in chaos and on the brink of collapse is conveyed vividly. The novel opens with a bomb exploding in the streets, De Luca secures the release of a witness from SS custody only to witness his bloodstained body being thrown into a truck and the sinister party representative Vitali seems determined to steer the investigation for his own ends.

This is a very enjoyable book and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.