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Press & Reviews
  • Reviews for Crimini by Niccolo Ammaniti and others
  • Crimini |  Niccolo Ammaniti and others |  Review
Reviews for Crimini by Niccolo Ammaniti and others
'This is a gem of a book. An anthology of nine contemporary short stories written by a selection of Italy's leading modern crime writers. The collection contains a huge diversity of styles and personalities that presents an overview of Italian noir fiction. The stories are gripping often darkly humorous works with settings that range from Milan to Palermo by way of Rome. The mafia is not just Sicilian but also Albanian, Croatian and Chinese. Here are the tales of ordinary criminals, a drug-addled cosmetic surgeon, a corrupt police chief, inept blackmailers, heroic detectives and an assortment of lowlifes lusting after easy money: kidnap and blackmail are never far away. Writers include Niccolò Ammaniti, Andrea Camilleri, Massimo Carlotto, Sandrone Dazieri, Giancarlo De Cataldo, Diego De Silva, Giorgio Faletti, Marcello Fois, Carlo Lucarelli and Antonio Manzini. A riveting snapshot of the dark heart of contemporary Italy.' - Italy Magazine
'British readers are familiar with Italian crime writers such as Andrea Camilleri, Gianrico Carofiglio and Carlo Lucarelli. CRIMINI shows that they are not the only names in the country's recent resurgence. The nine stories here, loosely labelled 'Italian Noir', demonstrate an impressive range of style and content. I was particularly taken by Massimo Carlotto and Marcello Fois, but all of them are worth reading.' - The Times

'The Italy of Carlotto is a different world entirely, a dangerous setting for serious crimes committed by cruel men.'

- New York Times
'The Bitter and the Sweet :
I like Italian mysteries for the same reasons I enjoy Italian coffee: they're dark, hot, and bitter. That's why Crimini, a new short-story collection from that brilliant band of European crime specialists at Bitter Lemon Press, is such a pleasure. Edited by Giancarlo De Cataldo (who also contributes a strong tale here about a Christmas Eve kidnapping that goes bad), and translated by Andrew Brown, these nine stories are eye-openers into a world that the casual visitor rarely gets to see.
My favorite story is "A Series of Misunderstandings, " by Andrea Camilleri, about whom I've written glowingly in recent months. Camilleri is probably the best mystery novelist you've never heard of since Donna Leon, who had a kind word for him on the cover of Excursion to Tindari (2005). His books, about a Sicilian police detective called Salvo Montalbano, are bestsellers in Europe and the basis of a popular Italian TV series. They are published as paperback originals in the States by Penguin, which makes a serious effort with its artistic and evocative cover paintings. Also of great importance in bringing Camilleri's work to Americans is award-winning translator and poet Stephen Sartarelli.
Camilleri's story in Crimini isn't about Inspector Montalbano, but deals instead with Bruno, a smart, sexy, and friendly telephone repairman who has a fling with one of his customers. A dumb joke by Bruno results in her being killed by some very nasty gangsters, who think she knows something she shouldn't. It's a tender tale, totally Italian and completely absorbing.' - The Rap Sheet - http://therapsheet.blogspot.com/
'Italian mafia and political crime are often seen as in Britain as the other extreme of Italy's under-the-olive-tree, mandolin and pizza culture, so a collection of Italian crime fiction might seem long overdue. However Italian noir is a relatively new phenomenon. The brutal reality of the 'years of lead' was first re-examined by De Cataldo, the editor of this anthology, in 'Romanzo Criminale', now an excellent film. Contributors include Niccolò Ammaniti ('I'm Not Scared'), and Andrea Camilleri (the Inspector Montalbano series), and authors who deserve to be better known to English readers, such as Carlo Lucarelli and Massimo Carlotto. This should be compulsory reading as a counterweight to bland series such as Francesco's Italy.' - Scotland on Sunday
'Given our fascination with the mafia and Neapolitan crime it's surprising that this collection of Italian crime short stories is the first to be published in English. Contributors include familiar names like Niccolo Ammaniti and Andrea Camilleri (best known for his Inspector Montalbano books) and up-and-coming writers such as Rome-based Antonio Manzini. While both cops and capos are portrayed as modern, global operators, the female leads are drawn from a more retro school of noir. Lara D'Angelo, the heroine of Carlo Lucarelli's story "The Third Shot", seems as fixated by her own breasts as do her fellow-police officers.' - The Independent
'Abandon all images of sun-soaked terracotta, fragrant olive groves and gorgeous, generous women; this collection of self-described Italian noir takes the reader on a region by region tour of a tired and tawdry Italy inhabited by varied strata of lowlife and bottom feeders, heavy on "anti" and pretty much bereft of "hero".
Editor Giancarlo de Cataldo, who also contributes one of the most effective stories in the collection, charmingly sidesteps his way through an introduction to these nine stories, each based in the author's home region. What defines Italian noir? According to de Cataldo, this is noir because its readership says so. The reader is instructed that three important themes run through these stories: corruption, the presence of the foreigner, and an obsession with success, especially of the material kind.
To me the most interesting of these themes is the concept of the foreigner, the tide of immigrants to Italy from other tired and torn apart countries. Albanians, Slavs, Chinese, North Africans all speckle this blasted Italian landscape, their gangs out-Mafiaing the old Mafia, which is remembered almost with nostalgia. But unlike classic American noir, it's difficult to discern much similarity of mood or style among these stories, apart from the cast of decidedly un-simpatico characters in each.
The best of the collection, such as Carlo Lucarelli's The Third Shot, Death of an Informer by Massimo Carlotto, or the above-quoted "noir fairytale" The Boy Who Was Kidnapped By The Christmas Fairy, by de Cataldo, succeed by suggesting vestiges of more sympathetic character and a time less bleak and opportunistic than the present. Others read as little more than shooting scripts for second rate television, offering ciphers in place of characters and no more interesting revelation than a pointing finger assigning guilt.
Translator Andrew Brown must have had an arduous task dealing with nine vernaculars from different regions of Italy. The quality of the translations sometimes feels seamless but is often rambling and confusing, perhaps because the stories have been translated from Italian into what reads like British gangster slang with an Italian accent. I would love to have access to the original Italian to get more sense of each author's voice and style.
The appeal of the best of these stories, like that of 20th century American noir, is a connection with characters struggling to stay afloat in a poisoned sea.' - www.theshortreview.com/reviews/Crimini.htm
The insider: Italy's crime renaissance and me

'When I woke up in the morning, Your Honour, the bedroom floor was flooded in blood and I found an axe on top of my wife's battered torsos. Disturbingly, she had chopped off her own arms and legs in the night. How tired I must have been to sleep through that!' I've heard all sorts of ludicrous defences in my 25 years as a judge in the Italian criminal court, in Rome - though the cases I cover are mostly grisly. And they've been a major inspiration for my other career as a crime novelist. My best-known book, Romanzo Criminale (adapted into a movie in 2005), is about the Banda della Magliana, the organised crime gang that held sway over Rome in the 1970s and 1980s, and many of whose leaders I tried - those who hadn't already been shot dead.
The atmosphere in the courtroom was tense and made a great subject, especially as, in Italy, the most notorious defendants spend a trial confined in a barred cage, like lions. Not that anything crazily violent, such as a Magliana boss breaking his bars and shooting the prosecuting lawyer, ever went on. It was a serious trial of serious criminals. (Italian courts don't have viewing balconies, so the bosses' 'associates' weren't glaring down intimidatingly at me, Hollywood-style, either.)
My schedule at the court isn't a fixed 9 to 5; it depends on when trials come up and how long they last. Thankfully, there aren't gang bosses to try for murder every second of every day, so I write my stories in spare moments.
People come up with hundreds of reasons why I shouldn't take on the dual roles of judge and novelist - shouldn't what's revealed in the courtroom stay in the courtroom? Shouldn't I, as an author, be thinking up my own plots? And, most commonly, shouldn't I, for my own safety, be careful about exposing the secret lives of murderous criminals? None of that worries me.
I've never asked for security. During the Magliana trials, I was given a driver to take me to and from court, but that's as close to protection as I've ever had. My independence and privacy are precious to me. And I'm more afraid of losing respect and honour, through a media attack on my verdicts, than I am of ever losing my life. (Luckily for me, it's the prosecutor not the judge who is most at risk of being shot.)
Anyway, my writings, even when inspired by real-life events, are ultimately fiction. Even after trying a case in court, there are still always gaps in the story. For example, I suspect the influence of the Freemasons on the Banda della Magliana has never fully been revealed.
But suspicions, suspicions, suspicions. We'll never know every last reason or motivation for why a crime is committed, or every last link in a chain of actions. And so, as a writer, I inevitably fill in the historical blanks with fantasy.
My books are just a small part of what is now a golden era for Italian crime fiction. Carlo Lucarelli, Niccolò Ammaniti and Andrea Camilleri, the author of the superb Inspector Montalbano series, are just a few of the names that feature in the European bestseller lists. And then there's the Italy-based foreigners - such as Michael Dibdin and Donna Leon, who offer readers the Italian sleuths, Aurelio Zen and Guido Brunetti, respectively.
Since England gave the world detective fiction and America gave the world Noir writing, there's a certain amount of 'selling ice to Eskimos' about Italian writers' success in Anglo-Saxon countries. But we also bring our own touch to things. We don't do whodunits, for a start. We aren't interested in who the killer is, so much as examining what sort of society and institutions help create that killer.
The Anglo-Saxon crime thrillers are all about the triumph and restoration of order, of 'Elementary, dear Watson' deductions, of everything being resolved. By contrast, the modern Italian equivalent is about psychological and societal disorder; it's rooted in reality and maps the evil and corruption in politics and society, without offering resolution. For Italian writers, it's utopian to think that every crime can be cleared up, Agatha Christie-style.
We're all good friends, too, regularly meeting for dinner or at crime-writing conventions. We were excited to be asked to one at Columbia University, in New York, last November, and to visit the home of so many great Italian-American crime stories. But we were crushed to find that there was little left of the Italian Brooklyn that Martin Scorsese depicted in Mean Streets. It's now a 'Little Odessa', overrun by Russians.
Things have changed as rapidly in New York as they have in Italy, where the Mafia has now become the Mafias. The traditional, family-oriented, Godfather-esque model is largely silent and it controls nowhere near the amount of territory that it used to. In the major cities, we have mob penetration from the Russian, Chinese and Eastern European Mafias instead.
It's a bleak picture, and Italian crime writing reflects that. Not that it's all about gangs and bosses. The most disturbing case I've tried was of a father-of-three who had lost his job just after losing his wife to cancer. Tormented by visions of his wife's ghost saying, 'Join me, and bring the girls with you', he stabbed his three young daughters to death and then set his house on fire, but his neighbour saved him. We sentenced him to 19 years in prison, but his real punishment was living with what he had done.
Yet, for all the bleakness, there are still moments of macabre humour. I remember trying one defendant, a university drop-out from a good family, who had chosen to kill his parents rather than admit that he hadn't got his degree. He wrapped their bodies in bin-liners, calling the police two days later and claiming he had just returned home to find his mother and father dead.'
• Giancarlo De Cataldo is the editor of 'Crimini', a collection of short stories by Italian crime writers (Bitter Lemon, £8.99). He was talking to Alastair Smart
- Sunday Telegraph Arts Magazine
'As De Cataldo, an appellate judge, points out in his pithy preface, corruption is a theme shared by all nine stories in this first U.S. anthology of Italian noir. The dark farce, "You Are My Treasure Chest " by Niccolo Ammaniti and Antonio Manzini, recounts the misadventures of drug-addicted plastic surgeon Paolo Bocchi, who finds a creative solution to hiding a stash of cocaine when he must perform breast-enhancement surgery on one of Italy's leading soap opera actresses. Carlo Lucarelli's lean "The Third Shot, " the volume's most impressive entry, centers on an officer-involved shooting in Bologna. Expectations are confounded when the threat from organized crime in Massimo Carlotto's "Death of an Informer " stems not from the Mafia but from Chinese gangs who have taken over the protection rackets in small towns the Italian mobsters have abandoned. As Carlotto's story suggests, the increasing role of immigrants in Italian society has become a major theme in Italian noir. The high quality and variety of these tales will leave many readers hoping for another such selection soon.' - Publishers Weekly
'Italian crime fiction has been gaining a higher profile in the English-reading world in the last five years, and this anthology (originally published in Italy in 2005) showcases all the big names (except Giancarlo Carofiglio), plus a few who've yet to previously appear in English. In his introduction, editor and contributor Giancarlo De Cataldo identifies three themes that unite the nine stories: corruption (financial and moral), foreigners (recent waves of immigrants), and obsession with success and fame. The first of these is rather obvious -- pretty much all crime fiction involves moral corruption. The second theme is rather more interesting and distinctive, although the stories here tend to incorporate immigrants from elsewhere in Europe, and not the African or Middle Eastern immigrant population. The third theme is also somewhat unusual, as these stories feature more entertainers, politicians, and glory-seekers than the average crime anthology.
The first story, Niccolo Ammaniti (known outside Italy primarily for the novel I'm Not Scared and its film adaptation) and Antonio Manzini's "You Are My Treasure Chest," is a good example. It features a coke-addled, panic-striken plastic surgeon to the stars who, in the midst of a boob job, hides his baggie of cocaine inside the starlet he's operating on. This outsized premise is the catalyst for several years of misadventures in which he attempts to retrieve this "nest egg." It's kind of a goofy, ridiculous story, but colorful enough to engage readers open to that kind of crime story. Sandrone Dazieri's "The Last Gag" and Giorgio Faletti's "The Guest of Honor" also revolve around the lifestyles of the rich and famous. In the former, a former TV comedian comes to realize his former partner was murdered, and inadvertently solves the case. The latter features a tabloid journalist who thinks he's hit paydirt by locating a long-missing TV star -- however following this story also means tangling with the devil...
Most of the other stories are more conventional, such as the second, Carlo Lucarelli's (whose post-WWII De Luca Trilogy is well worth seeking out) "The Third Shot." The only story to feature a female lead, it revolves around a policewoman who suspects a well-known fellow officer of lying about an armed confrontation with two Albanian thieves, and the fallout her suspicion engenders. Another cop-centric story is Massimo Carlotto's "Death of an Informer," which pits a tenacious cop against a ring of Croat soldiers turned drug smugglers. Probably the most old-fashioned story is Marcello Fois' brief "What's Missing," in which a nice old lady is killed and a police detective must sift through a few clues to identify the killer and his motive.
The other three stories are somewhat more personal. The title of Andrea Camilleri's (author of the long-running Inspector Montalbano series) "A Series of Misunderstandings" is perfectly apt, as an unlikely couple falls in love and when she is killed, he must struggle to clear his name and find her true killers. In Deigo De Silva's "Theresa's Lair," an aging beauty is held captive by a young anticapitalist activist on the run from the cops, with tragic results. And Giancarlo De Cataldo's "The Boy Who Was Kidnapped by the Christmas Fairy" is about a desperate and amoral man who stags the kidnapping of his girlfriend's son in order to use the ransom money to pay off his gambling debts. However, the involvement of a hooker and a Lithuanian drifter complicate matters in what ends up becoming a rather heartwarming tale.
The anthology is more successful than most due to the range of stories, as well as their relative length. The mix of comical, cop, and citizen stories makes for nice changes of pace within the book, and with one exception, the stories are 25-40 pages long, allowing for plenty of room for character and plot development. This is both a great introduction to modern Italian crime fiction, and a solid crime anthology in its own right.' - Mostlyfiction
'Miss Marple it ain't. It's Italian noir. Although each of these short stories is widely different from the others, the book as a whole is crammed with corruption, greed, sex, seediness and brutality. It's sometimes darkly funny and it's never PC. You need to concentrate. All the stories are business-like and cinematic: if you relish poetic description go elsewhere. They're not uniformly excellent. The Third Shot (bent cops) is difficult to follow and Teresa's Lair, about urban terrorism, has a flat end. The otherwise splendid You Are My Treasure Chest,-- botox, boob jobs and avarice-featuring a cocaine-addicted plastic surgeon is riddled with down market American slang. The Guest of Honour, although marred by a weird conclusion, is fast, hard-boiled and laugh-aloud funny; The Boy Who Was Kidnapped by the Christmas Fairy would make a good full-length film--adults only. Best of the lot is The Last Gag. Set in a vividly realized world of clapped-out comics, over-the-hill tarts, no-hope would-be stars and media hangers-on, it's a thrilling page turner with an unexpected and deeply satisfying denouement. It's crying out to be filmed. - Nottingham Evening Post
'I don't know what's in the water there, but some of the best dark crime fiction around is coming out of Italy at the moment. And CRIMINI, a collection of noir short stories, is no exception. Editor Giancarlo de Cataldo has collected together nine stories of generally outstanding quality. If you're a fan of European crime fiction, you'll recognise Andrea Camilleri, Massimo Carlotto and Carlo Lucarelli among the contributors. But the other names, most of which were new to me, suggest there's some great talent in Italy just waiting to be translated into English for a wider audience.
This is a superlative collection with only one slightly weak link (Marcello Fois's What's Missing never seemed to get out of first gear). The stories aren't flimsy five-page too-neat cameos, or those that read like the start of a novel. Instead these are well-crafted 30 or so-page pieces where the writer has room to manoeuvre.
My favourites were the slightly off-beat ones - You Are My Treasure Chest, by Niccolò Ammaniti and Antonio Manzini,is chockfull of black humour and has a disgraced plastic surgeon attempting to retrieve the bag of cocaine he sewed into an actress's breast implant when police raided the clinic. Book editor de Cataldo's The Boy Who Was Kidnapped by the Christmas Fairy (sub-titled A Noir Fairytale) features a small boy, a tart with a heart, a former Lithuanian policeman, a dodgy sports writer and assorted Eastern European baddies. And yes, the characters really make it zing!
Giorgio Faletti's The Guest of Honour, which features a journalist trying to track down a missing TV celebrity, moves from languid laid-back bantering to a suddenly really rather creepy ending that stays with you after the story has ended. And there's a showbiz angle in Sandrone Dazieri's The Last Gag, where an ex-stage star gets reluctantly involved in trying to find out who killed his former comedy partner while trying to start up a relationship with a woman who's ambitious for her precocious would-be comedian son.
Of the better-known names, Andrea Camilleri (author of the Inspector Montalbano series) comes up with a rather poignant number in A Series of Misunderstandings, where a technician in a phone company thinks he's met his dream woman, but intercepting a phone call has unfortunate results. King of Italian noir Massimo Carlotto's police procedural Death of an Informer is as dark as you would expect, although it could have taken a cut.
CRIMINI is an exceptional collection that oozes quality, helped immeasurably by sparky and idiomatic translations from Andrew Brown. One question, though - don't women write crime fiction in Italy?' - Reviewing the Evidence
'I don't know what's in the water there, but some of the best dark crime fiction around is coming out of Italy at the moment. And CRIMINI, a collection of noir short stories, is no exception. Editor Giancarlo de Cataldo has collected together nine stories of generally outstanding quality. If you're a fan of European crime fiction, you'll recognise Andrea Camilleri, Massimo Carlotto and Carlo Lucarelli among the contributors. But the other names, most of which were new to me, suggest there's some great talent in Italy just waiting to be translated into English for a wider audience.
This is a superlative collection with only one slightly weak link (Marcello Fois's What's Missing never seemed to get out of first gear). The stories aren't flimsy five-page too-neat cameos, or those that read like the start of a novel. Instead these are well-crafted 30 or so-page pieces where the writer has room to manoeuvre.
My favourites were the slightly off-beat ones - You Are My Treasure Chest, by Niccolò Ammaniti and Antonio Manzini,is chockfull of black humour and has a disgraced plastic surgeon attempting to retrieve the bag of cocaine he sewed into an actress's breast implant when police raided the clinic.
Book editor de Cataldo's The Boy Who Was Kidnapped by the Christmas Fairy (sub-titled A Noir Fairytale) features a small boy, a tart with a heart, a former Lithuanian policeman, a dodgy sports writer and assorted Eastern European baddies. And yes, the characters really make it zing!
Giorgio Faletti's The Guest of Honour, which features a journalist trying to track down a missing TV celebrity, moves from languid laid-back bantering to a suddenly really rather creepy ending that stays with you after the story has ended.
And there's a showbiz angle in Sandrone Dazieri's The Last Gag, where an ex-stage star gets reluctantly involved in trying to find out who killed his former comedy partner while trying to start up a relationship with a woman who's ambitious for her precocious would-be comedian son.
Of the better-known names, Andrea Camilleri (author of the Inspector Montalbano series) comes up with a rather poignant number in A Series of Misunderstandings, where a technician in a phone company thinks he's met his dream woman, but intercepting a phone call has unfortunate results. King of Italian noir Massimo Carlotto's police procedural Death of an Informer is as dark as you would expect, although it could have taken a cut.
CRIMINI is an exceptional collection that oozes quality, helped immeasurably by sparky and idiomatic translations from Andrew Brown. One question, though - don't women write crime fiction in Italy?' - www.reviewingtheevidence.com
'Camilleri writes with such vigour and wit that he deserves a place alongside Donna Leon, along with the additional advantage of an insider's sense of authenticity.' - Sunday Times
'As De Cataldo, an appellate judge, points out in his pithy preface, corruption is a theme shared by all nine stories in this first U.S. anthology of Italian noir. The dark farce, ""You Are My Treasure Chest"" by Niccolo Ammaniti and Antonio Manzini, recounts the misadventures of drug-addicted plastic surgeon Paolo Bocchi, who finds a creative solution to hiding a stache of cocaine when he must perform breast-enhancement surgery on one of Italy's leading soap opera actresses. Carlo Lucarelli's lean ""The Third Shot,"" the volume's most impressive entry, centers on an officer-involved shooting in Bologna. Expectations are confounded when the threat from organized crime in Massimo Carlotto's ""Death of an Informer"" stems not from the Mafia but from Chinese gangs who have taken over the protection rackets in small towns the Italian mobsters have abandoned. As Carlotto's story suggests, the increasing role of immigrants in Italian society has become a major theme in Italian noir. The high quality and variety of these tales will leave many readers hoping for another such selection soon.' - Publishers Weekly
'These stories by nine authors are all different but linked by their setting in Italy, and by several themes identified in the introduction. And like most selections of short stories by various authors, this collection varies in quality and interest. Present in all of them to some degree is corruption, obsession with success, and "the foreigner" - sometimes in the guise of an un-Italian mafia, Chinese or Croatian criminals. Several of them also contain a wonderfully dark humour.
The collection begins with the excellent You are My Treasure Chest, a nightmarish tale of a plastic surgeon's descent into crime and madness after he sews a huge stash of cocaine into a TV actress's bosom to stop the police finding it. And The Boy Who Was Kidnapped by the Christmas Fairy by Giancarlo De Cataldo is aptly subtitled A Noir Fairytale, as a series of slapstick weird events bring together an unlikely couple to try to defeat the crooks.A fun collection, perhaps not best read if you're holidaying in Italy this year. **** '
- Coventry Telegraph
'The death of Michael Dibdin has left a big hole in the Italian crime market he so elegantly cornered. But here's a nice consolation prize for readers who don't think a killer is really a killer unless he has stabbed his victim with a Parmesan knife after feeding him spaghetti vongole. The authors in this collection will be unknown to most people here: Georgio Faletti, Sandrone Dazieri, Carlo Lucarelli...and the stories are slight. But ah, that inimitable Italian backcloth.' - Sunday Telegraph
'On their Web site, the folks at London-based Bitter Lemon Press boast: "Our books are entertaining and gripping crime fiction that exposes the dark side of foreign places. They explore what lies beneath the surface of the bustling life of cities such as Paris, Havana, Munich and Mexico City. " And now with the publication of the nine exciting stories in editor Giancarlo De Cataldo's anthology, Crimini, you can add Bologna, Milan, Rome and Palermo as settings for noir tales that can bring a smile to the lips, a tear to the eye or a jolt to the imagination.
According to De Cataldo, himself an author, screenwriter and appeals court judge in Rome, three themes predominate in this collection. The first, as one might expect of any worthwhile noir anthology, is the theme of corruption, especially financial and moral. The second involves the growing wave of immigrants "that is perceived either as a threat or else as an unmissable opportunity for an old, tired, jaded country like Italy to renew itself. " And the third is the theme of success at any cost. Oh, and of course, members of the Mafia have roles to play here as well, whether at home or offshore.
Under De Cataldo's practiced editorial eye, Crimini opens with a bang about a bust (TV soap-opera star Simona Somaini's) in its lead story, "You Are My Treasure Chest, " by Niccolo Ammaniti and Antonio Manzini. Here, a drug-disoriented plastic surgeon named Paolo Bocchi, while operating on Somaini and about to be arrested by the Italian narcotics police, conceals an incriminating two-pound bag of coke in a most unlikely place, "as if the Coke Fairy herself had kindly and quietly suggested it. " The repository for the damning evidence thus becomes an integral part of Somaini's left boob -- hence the title for this story, which includes a couple of comic bits about a Rohypnol kidnapping gone awry and the threatened public exposure of a television director's surgically lengthened "dangler, " before ending with a botched operation, the hijacking of a burial urn and a mourner who snaps "like a demented ninja " prior to being shot by a police sniper. And true to De Cataldo's forecast, there are references here to a Senegalese refugee, a Japanese architect, a Sudanese pastor, a Filipino maid, Russian drug pushers, prostitutes, arms sellers and various symbols of success.
In Carlo Lucarelli's brief yarn, "The Third Shot, " immigrants play a much larger role. Flying Squad police officer Lara D'Angelo is caught in a turf war between Albanian and Moroccan drug peddlers in Bologna, at the same time as she deals with her own qualms of conscience after she incriminates a decorated narcotics department inspector in the firing of bullets that killed two Albanian drug dealers. Her habit of chewing the inside of her cheek leaves a taste "as metallic as when you lick a battery. " She's got breast problems too, but unlike Somaini's of the first story, hers involve a fetish about never removing her bra -- "not with Marco [her boyfriend] or with anyone else. " After suspecting that she's been framed, her love-smitten partner is killed, although she's the target. Then, D'Angelo is humiliated by her superiors, and next, she's threatened with assassination by her enemies. But she resolves all of her problems in a final tension-filled, braless confrontation.
Sicilian Andrea Camilleri, the creator of the popular Inspector Montalbano series, brings his earlier theatrical interests to the fore in "A Series of Misunderstandings. " It's a suspenseful story, written in a script-like style, about a telephone prank gone astray, a sadistic killer gone wild, a police investigation done right and a wrongful death avenged even as "almost everyone is [erroneously] convinced the murderer is a thief, an immigrant from some country outside the European Union. "
The immigrants in Massimo Carlotto's action-adventure tale, "Death of an Informer, " are a group of Croatians led by 49-year-old Josip Persen, formerly the head of the Zagreb Ultras and involved with ethnic cleansing. Now he's into drugs, chased by the Croatian Mafia, the Italian Customs and Excise drug squad and the local police. He's also guilty of the execution-style killing of Padua police Inspector Giulio Campagna's informants, Ortis and Naza Sabic, before being wounded and cozying up to the Chinese Mafia. Carlotto's is a Rambo-style story with Campagna willing to break the law to revenge the death not only of Ortis and his wife, but of others close to him as well. The story is distinguished by its references to Inspector Campagna's personal experiences, good and bad, with his wife, daughter and colleagues. Some background also comes from Carlotto's own life on the run as a wrongly accused murderer, an episode he told in the book, Fugitive, which became the foundation for the film Il Fuggiasco (The Fugitive).
Marcello Fois' pleasantly entertaining piece, "What's Missing, " omits the blatant references to the immigrants that appear in Crimini's other stories. But it's nevertheless about morality and the struggle for power between a policeman and a candidate for mayor, both of whom are mixed up in the murder of the candidate's grandmother, a nasty old lady whom nobody liked, including the artist with his perpetually open front door who lives across the hall. As Police Inspector Giacomo Curelli sets about like some Sherlockian sleuth to solve the crime, echoes of Holmes' dictums reverberate in Curelli's advice to his assistant not to prejudge the already apprehended artist, but to "[t]hink it all through in good order "; and with regard to the evidence of a painting, Curelli cautions him to remember, "What interests me is not what's there, but what's missing ... " There's even a Watsonian echo in Curelli's statement, "Do try and listen, Marchini, just once in a while. "
Even Christmas in Crimini has its darker side, as editor De Cataldo depicts it in his own whimsical yarn, "The Boy Who Was Kidnapped by the Christmas Fairy. " De Cataldo calls up the sure-fire sympathetic characters of a dog, a child, a heart-of-gold whore masquerading in Rome as La Befana (The Christmas Fairy) and a Lithuanian white knight who rescues them. Not so sympathetic, however, is the weaselish Italian would-be kidnapper and his black-hearted accomplice, known only as the Slav, a mean bastard if ever there was one. Yet in the end, as De Cataldo shows, even a "noir fairy tale " can end happily ever after.
For the 60-year-old female protagonist, Miss Teresa, and her much younger upstairs neighbor, Marco, who feature in Diego De Silva's emotionally charged "Teresa's Lair, " there is no such happy-ever-after ending. The universal appeal of their story, having to do with forcible confinement, comes from the fact that it could have happened in any down-at-the heels tenement anywhere and been portrayed on any number of TV shows as an example of Stockholm syndrome. But its tension as it drives to its inevitable conclusion is palpable, its characters memorable and its storyline credible. "Teresa's Lair " is one of the best stories in this collection.
Then there is the first-person narrative of Sandrone Dazieri's "The Last Gag. " This is a throwback to the days of Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade finding killers the old-fashioned way: by gumshoeing their around town with style and panache. But in this case, the town is Milan, and the stylish gumshoe is a former comic and ex-alcoholic cabaret owner, Sammy Donati. He's been conned into helping to clear his ex-girlfriend of the murder of his quondam partner, while at the same time he makes out with a new girlfriend, the 35-year-old mother of an aspiring 12-year-old comic for whom Mom will do anything, and we mean anything. However, the anything of Dazieri's story is pretty mundane compared to what a guest-of-honor starlet surrenders to gain a fleeting 15 seconds of fame before dropping dead on a prime-time TV show, leading the program's host to hide out for four years in Guadeloupe. There, he's hunted down in a hospital by a self-confessed sleazeball journalist and his 18-year-old niece, each of whom have their own reasons for cornering him. But before they're done, they'll learn a hair-raising lesson about a devil of a time on the TV show and who the real guest of honor (or was it guest of horror?) was. Dazieri's tale is guaranteed to keep readers looking over their shoulders long after the last page has been turned.
A captivating survey of the best Italian noir authors and foremost stories about Italian crimes, cops and criminals, Crimini is definitely worth reading. It's another feather in Bitter Lemon's cap, as that publisher seeks to expose Italy's dark side in print.'
- January Magazine
'A compendium of the work of the best Italian crime writers, this book offers nine gripping short stories that vary from being humorous to dark and sinister. The settings include everywhere from Palermo to Milan, Rome and Guadeloupe and unlike many novels, the cast of criminals are ordinary people, rather than psychopaths or cannibals. All nine authors are best sellers in Italy. Suspense, intrigue and knife-edge tension fill the 319 pages of this book, and there really isn't a dud tale among them. For those who love your crime thrillers, this is a refreshingly new style that's sure to get you hooked. The perfect stocking filler for Christmas.' - The Italian Magazine
'I have to say upfront that I haven't read many short story collections, however based on the high standard of CRIMINI, I should definitely try some more anthologies.CRIMINI was first published in Italian in 2005 and an Italian tv series has also been made of the stories, with a close collaboration between the authors and screenwriters. There are nine stories in all, one by the editor Giancarlo De Cataldo, author of ROMANZO CRIMINALE which was made into a successful film last year, plus contributions from other familiar names such as Andrea Camilleri, Massimo Carlotto and Carlo Lucarelli. Though the cover doesn't say so the preface makes it clear that we will be reading "Italian Noir" and in addition, that there are three underlying themes: corruption, the foreigner and the obsession with success. My favourite stories were the ones with humour in them which are the tales that bracket the collection; the first story You Are My Treasure Chest where a corrupt plastic surgeon tries to retrieve a packet of cocaine from a tv star's enhanced bosom and the last story The Guest Of Honour which stars a politically incorrect newspaper journalist trying to track down a former tv star, which has a Woman in Black feel to it. Other highlights are De Cataldo's The Boy Who Was Kidnapped by the Christmas Fairy where a reporter gets his comeuppance, Marcello Fois' What's Missing which is a more traditional whodunit and Massimo Carlotto's Death of an Informer in which Carlotto, as is his trademark, fits a lot in his 37 pages.
One of the reasons CRIMINI works so well is that the stories aren't too short and thus don't rely on a gimmicky ending. With an average length of 35 pages, the characters and story can be fleshed out. Another reason is that all the stories are as well written as you'd expect from some of Italy's best writers. Most of the stories are set in different parts of Italy with Rome re-occurring a few times, but though I found that each city didn't particularly stand out from another, except perhaps with Carlotto's Padua and Rome, the collection leaves a strong impression of Italy as a whole and the issues facing it today. Hopefully more of the authors showcased in CRIMINI will now be translated into English.' - www.eurocrime.co.uk
'We really do have to thank Bitter Lemon Press for bringing us Crimini a fine collection of Italian noir. I have only read the first three stories but even if the others don't reach this standard the book deserves a place in the collection of all crime fiction fans.Niccolo Ammaniti and Antonio Manzini with You Are My Treasure Chest give us an amusing crime caper story about a drug addled cosmetic surgeon. The story may not be entirely politically correct as it concerns a "boob" job that has unfortunate complications for both the surgeon and the patient. The surgeon Paolo Bocchi had done a Master's in maxillofacial reconstruction in Lyon and he was nothing like the excellent maxillofacial surgeons I knew during my career. But I did know an eye surgeon once.............better not go there. Carlo Lucarelli's The Third Shot involves the shooting of two Albanians and the suspicions of an attractive policewoman Lara about the sequence of the shots. There are a number of twists and turns in this tale of corruption and fear that will keep you guessing. A Series of Misunderstandings by Andrea Camilleri shows how the master of the Italian detective story can produce darker noir just as good as his lighter Montalbano mysteries. It is also a warning never to answer a phone in Palermo.' - camberwell-crime.blogspot.com
'I'm not normally a big fan of short stories. I want to get to know the characters, I want the plot to build, and I want one story to last me several sittings. But it's well worth making the exception for Crimini. This is a paperback collection of nine short Italian crime dramas in which the authors-the best crime writers in the country-show considerable talent in telling a gripping noir tale in 20 to 30 pages. The settings range from Milan to Palermo and , interestingly, the mobsters are often foreigners-Croatians seem to crop up regularly as baddies, alongside the occasional Albanian and Chinese. The subject matter, too, varies considerably. The humorous 'You Are My Treasure Chest', by Niccolò Ammaniti and Antonio Manzini, follows a brilliant plastic surgeon on the skids as he tries to recover a stash of cocaine which could make him rich again. Giancarlo De Cataldo's 'The Boy Who Was Kidnapped by the Christmas Fairy' sees a relationship build between the strange little boy and the woman tricked into kidnapping him. And for once, a foreigner-this time Lithuanian-is the good guy. In Andrea Camilleri's 'A Series of Misunderstandings', a joke backfires as a man finds himself a mafia target and under suspicion of murder. While 'The Last Gag' by Sandrone Dazieri finds a faded TV comic trying to solve the murder of his former friend, turned rival. Many of the stories are so good, you want them to last longer than 20 pages.' - Ilford Recorder and Newham Recorder
'Italy's crime fiction scene, currently one of the world's liveliest, takes much of its inspiration from American movie images of Italian hard men, using elements from the stylish films of Quentin Tarantino and John Woo. In Crimini, the first collection of Italian crime short stories to be published in English, all the male cops, and many of the female ones, are quick witted, cool under pressure and, above all, mucho, even when violence is near and death highly probable. "Italian noir " may not quite go so far as the filmmakers do in aestheticizing violence, but it treats wrongdoing as part of the human condition and casts a wry gaze on the grim realities of crime and the politics of police work.
The villains in Crimini are up to date and pan-European--cosmetic surgeons, successful politicians, bent cops-and far from ful-filling any national Mafia fantasy, many of them are Albanians, Croatians and Chinese. These days, heredity and the extended family are insignificant; character flaws are everything. The Italy on show here is part of a globalized world, in which media recognition, fame, beauty and cash are what tempts people to murder and graft. The once dark underworld is now a slightly shadowy corner of everyday life. Power is no longer about running a cartel, but about everyone knowing who you are.
This is a highly readable collection, and the taut prose, in Andrew Brown's seamless translation, maintains a filmic energy. Outstanding stories include 'The Third Shot' by Carlo Lucarelli, 'Death of an Informer' by Massimo Carlotto, 'What's Missing' by Marcello Fois, and 'The Boy Who Was Kidnapped by the Christmas Fairy' by Giancarlo De Cataldo; all of them keep dialogue, descriptions and plot fast and clipped, while allowing for the creation of mood. Andrea Camilleri gives us a throwaway but enjoyable black comedy called 'A Series of Misunderstandings', and the much-translated Niccolò Ammaniti joins forces with a young Roman author, Antonio Manzini, in a mordant and quirky parable of greed, 'You Are My Treasure Chest'. Even these somewhat light stories are well written and entertaining. What is most impressive is the writers' willingness to introduce wild tangents into their tales and lead us into dark alleys, only to discover there is no growling dog or armed bandit waiting there. It is no longer slick Mafiosi keeping us interested but twisted plots and bizarre coincidences; this is crime fiction for the post modernist as well as the stylist.'
- Times Literary Supplement
'A collection of Italian crime fiction that doesn't rely on that crutch of the ol' Mafia is a welcome breath of fresh air. All nine stories in CRIMINI: THE BITTER LEMON BOOK OF ITALIAN CRIME FICTION stand proudly next to each other, without any of them being filler. Edited by Giancarlo De Cataldo, this is also a great sampler of Italian talent who hopefully now will gain a wider audience in the States. There is a wide variety of storytelling within these stories, each bringing forth some fresh ideas. Of course, you get a healthy dose of cops and robbers, with Massimo Carlotto's "Death of an Informer " being a standout. In that story, a cop investigates the death of an informer killed by the Croatian mafia, with the cop being of the renegade variety, determined to track down the killers using any source possible. This also has a great kicker of an ending - one that could easily have been played out on the big screen. Starting off the collection is a story that would make some of the pulp greats smile: "You Are My Treasure Chest " by Niccolo Ammaniti and Antonio Manzini, which deals with a plastic surgeon on the verge of being arrested for drugs and where he decides to hide his last bag of cocaine. Black humor is in full force with this one and proves this is not your run-of-the-mill crime anthology.
Andrea Camilleri's "A Series of Misunderstandings " is a story that starts with some comic effect, only leading to some truly tragic results, with a telephone worker named Bruno who thinks it's funny to take a call for another party while he is on a date with a woman he just started seeing. This story takes a very dark turn, but is told so well in a short time, you really feel for this doomed couple.
Then there is the tale of a kidnapping that just goes wrong with De Cataldo's "The Boy Who Was Kidnapped by the Christmas Fairy. " Even though it ends on a sweet note, the tale is chilling to the bone. Finishing up the collection, you have two stories both set in the world of entertainment, with "The Last Gag " by Sanrone Dazieri getting special mention. It deals with a former comic who has seen the better days of career gone, now investigating the death of his former partner. It will give new meaning to the term "stage mother. "
CRIMINI has its little idiosyncrasies, mainly dealing with the translation and the use of British colloquialisms. But these can just be glossed over, as this is truly a great collection of stories that puts some of those Akashic Books city-based NOIR anthologies to shame.' - www.bookgasm.com
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