Ive read and reviewed quite a few crime books written by Italian authors recently and I have been quite impressed. I like the idea that so many foreign novels are now being translated into English I know there are more than enough novels in English to get through, but I really enjoy reading about other countries and cultures, even when they are quite similar to our own.
Carlo Lucarelli is the author of a number of books written in the noir tradition. This book is the first to be translated into English. He is also the television host of a show which discusses out of the ordinary crimes, particularly those that have remained unsolved. He also teaches creative writing.
There has been a series of brutal murders of students, yet there appears to be no link between them, until Detective Inspector Grazia Negro of the Unit of Analysis of Serious Crimes becomes involved and is convinced that there is a link. Each time someone is murdered, a person meeting their description is seen at the scene of the next murder someone is shedding his skin after each murder and putting on the skin of the murder victim, which he then changes at the next murder. He is nicknamed the Iguana.
There is just one witness to these murders a blind young man who spends his time locked in his room listening to scanners which pick up radio waves throughout the city. He has a way of classifying voices by colour green means menacing, blue means pleasant etc and has listened in to a number of the killers conversations. Initially reluctant, he eventually agrees to work with Grazia to try to solve the terrible murders. But will this ploy work or is Grazia putting him into too much danger?
Grazia Negro comes over as being a pleasant young woman with a strong desire to do well in her career, but she is certainly nothing out of the ordinary. We find out very little about her past; all we know is that she is in love with her colleague and boss, Vittorio Poletto, but hasnt worked out a way to let him know without compromising her job. She has flaws, she makes mistakes, but she also has moments of brilliance. I enjoyed her character, but a few weeks down the line and Im sure she will have merged into the large collection of women detectives from other novels.
Simone has been blind from birth and apart from a period when he went to a school for the blind, he has spent most of his life in the apartment where he lives with his mother. He spends his days listening to radio waves over his scanner and listening to the same music time after time. His ears have become finely attuned, so he is able to classify voices and people by colour. I liked Simone. He is a complex character and obviously has hang-ups from the past, but he added colour to the book. I liked the way that the author used him to look at the story in a different way.
This book had moments of brilliance and moments of weakness. There were a few flaws in the plot; for example, I never really understood how Simone knew that the voice he was hearing was that of a serial murderer. The book was presented in short, snappy chapters, which I liked, each one titled by a key phrase from the chapter before. The fact that the chapters jumped around a bit was a little confusing some chapters were told by Simone, some by Grazia and others by the Iguana himself, but it was quite stimulating because it forced me to constantly pull myself up and think at which stage the character had been at the last time he/she told the story.
I liked the ending because of its vagueness; it wasnt obvious until right at the end what had happened. It was definitely the story that made this book for me; the characters played a minor part. Recommended for fans of crime fiction and readers who want something just a little different.
The book is available from play.com for £5.49. Published by Vintage, it has 128 pages. ISBN: 0099459434.