De Cataldo, Giancarlo (editor) - 'Crimini' (translated by Andrew Brown)
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.
Karen Meek, England