The Damned Season by Carlo Lucarelli (Shane's book 11, 2008)

When we left Commissario De Luca he was about to go on the run, escaping the Allies as they sweep across fascist northern Italy in 1945. He is picked up almost immediately by Brigadier Leonardi, a partisan policeman who recognises him as the 'legendary detective' he met once before the war. Instead of turning him in, Leonardi blackmails him into working on a case. To escape the firing squad, De Luca will have to solve the murder of a family, slaughtered in their remote farmhouse.

A case that at first appears unconnected to the war soon turns out to be rooted in institutional corruption. The second instalment of Lucarelli's trilogy makes clear that both sides of Italy are in turmoil; Allied or Access, fascist or communist, those in power are out for themselves.

De Luca is brilliantly drawn. Largely inscrutable, even to himself, Lucarelli shows, rather than tells, us that this is a man under unbearable stress. Nauseous but unable to eat, exhausted but incapable of sleep, De Luca is clearly tormented by his past.

Like Carte Blanche, this is a very short book. If the third volume, which isn't published in Britain until June, is of a similar size then all three will run to the length of a standard novel. Yet it's easy to see why Lucarelli published them separately. The story would be too episodic as a single novel. The first two, short though they may be, are clearly complete works, with separate characters, locations and narratives. The themes, however, remain the same.

This is an excellent series and I can't wait to read the concluding part.