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by Antonio Manzini and Antony Sugaar, trans.
Harper, April 2015
276 pages
ISBN: 0062310046

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Third in a series featuring police officer (now Deputy Chief) Rocco Schavione, BLACK RUN is the first to be translated into English from the Italian. Antonio Manzini is a mature and polished writer, taught years ago in university by successful mystery novelist Andrea Camilleri whose work Manzini's resembles while remaining in itself original.

Rocco has been involved in too many irregular activities to continue to serve with the police in Rome and finds himself transferred to the small town of Aosta which sits high in the Italian Alps amid ski resorts and deep in snow and freezing weather. As Deputy Chief he feels put upon by his isolation from his beloved home and by the myriad inadequacies of the local force he has to work with.

In a way that is perhaps typical of Italian novels, Rocco has a lovely wife Marina, a gorgeous mistress Nora, and a free-wheeling roving eye that assesses every female first in terms of sexual attraction but does later admit and appreciate other strong qualities if they exist.

It takes Rocco half the novel to give up his city-bred snobbery about clothing and multiple pairs of stylish footwear (now hopelessly ruined by the wet and the cold). His adjustment to the great outdoors and the not great small town environment allow Manzini plenty of room to show us the complex and contradictory facets of Rocco's character.

Faced with the sheer inconvenience of a corpse on a mountainside that has been chewed up under the treads of a snowcat, Rocco complains long and hard but never fails to notice the small things and move purposefully toward naming this a murder and bringing the murderers to justice.

Along with the fascinating mystery Manzini has fashioned comes a solid psychological study of a man whose service to the law has brought him so consistently into the swamp of criminal activity that he has trouble distinguishing himself from the very bad people he has spent so many years pursuing. Having fallen into the trap of behaving as though the ends could justify the means he took, Rocco is now himself corrupt and dreams of escaping into a retirement away from Italy and the life he has led and hates to remember - a dream of starting over, of being a new man. But Rocco is neither unintelligent or a fool and he is unable to lead anything other than an examined life, one he can never escape.

There is a level of honesty in this awful and venial man that makes him worth taking the time to read about. Manzini is very good at what he does.

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, August 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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