Timothy Williams "Big Italy"
Gollancz (0 575 05929 X) (Pbk) and 0 575 05924 9 (Hdk)
Commissario Trotti is tired, weary, sick of the in-fighting, vice and general futility of work in the Lombardy PD. The simple life beckons: goats and chickens on the hillside, good wine, good food, retirement and relaxation . But, for an outwardly misanthropic, world-weary detective, life can't ever be that simple. And so it turns out. Faced with the imminent realisation of many a day dream Trotti is given the ultimate temptation - a case which is inconvenient for the powers that be. Two murders: the first of a wealthy doctor, the second of the Private Detective hired to solve his murder. At face value simply crimes of passion ("Cherchez la femme" as Trotti is fond of saying) but if so why is Trotti being shunted off to the Child Protection Unit to prevent him proceeding with the case. Trotti can smell politics, the stench of vested interest.
Lombardy and Milan: in popular myth less tainted by the Mafia than the South. In reality just coming to terms with the collapse of Craxi's Socialist party and the uncovering of major systems of corruption. The elite are desperately trying to get down the shutters before daylight, Trotti trying to shed some light. The only answer to use corruption against itself? To be corrupt to a good end?
Timothy Williams' Big Italy is the sort of novel Hammett may have written if he'd lived in Italy in the eighties and early nineties. Big themes, lots of cynicism and the overall impression of powerlessness when faced with corruption. In the burgeoningly healthy field of pan-European crime fiction Timothy Williams is a major contender. Deceptively gently paced, the book shows a powerful genuine anger. (RL)

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