ROMANZO CRIMINALE by Giancarlo de Cataldo, Corvus, RRP £14.99, 556 pages
The immense success of Giancarlo de Cataldo’s arm-straining, influential 2002 novel Romanzo Criminale, about three close friends who hijack the organised crime scene in Rome, moved into the territory of non-literary phenomenon. The book, complex and heavily peopled, was famously inspired by real-life events. As well as being a forceful crime narrative, it is a chronicle of the ‘Years of Lead’, the time of socio-political upheaval that extended from the 1960s to the 1980s in Italy, with organised crime and political corruption going hand in hand. From a vividly realised 1960, with the joyriding principals already on their way to becoming ruthless criminals, through the bloody battles of the 1970s (including encounters with terrorists, the Mafia and the security services), the period detail is impeccable, with the stark and shadowy shadowy presentation of the characters paying dividends in terms of verisimilitude. This belated English translation by Antony Shugaar is rich and idiomatic.
THE DARK INSIDE by Rod Reynolds, Faber, RRP £12.99, 394 pages
A hopeful invoking of the cult drama True Detective on the jacket proves to be more than publisher hyperbole: The Dark Inside evokes the same shadowy, phantasmagoric atmosphere as the first series of that show. Rod Reynolds, a recent student on a UCL novel-writing course, shows that new crime writing talent is still appearing on these shores, particularly in the field of British writers who set their visceral tales in the sprawling canvas of the US. 1946: disgraced New York reporter Charlie Yates has been dispatched to Texarkana to look into of a rash of savage killings — young couples who have been killed in local lovers’ lanes. Charlie (who has the customary problems of all struggling journos in crime novels) finds a community in a vice-like grip of fear, and his involvement in the case becomes more personal because of the volatile Lizzie, sister of one of the victims, Alice — the only person to have survived the killer.