I've been an avid reader of Massimo Carlotto ever since The Columbian Mule, followed by The Master of Knots and The Goodbye Kiss. His work epitomises noir fiction and gives an interesting and accurate picture of the dark side of contemporary Italian culture. In Poisonville he has teamed up with script writer Marco Videta (Il secreto del successo, Sotto il sole nero). This is a more expansive and political novel from Carlotta's previous outings. Of course title derives from Hammett's Red Harvest. And like the latter novel, Poisonville is a book about how endemic corruption has become, and not just in northeast Italy where the book is set. In the new world order, everyone must share the guilt. And though localised, the crimes spread far and wide (timely considering that, as I read the novel, the Guardian reported the dumping of waste in the Ivory Coast by British oil trader Trafigura). Given Carlotta sparse style, it's difficult to tell which sections he wrote and which sections are Videtta's. I would suspect that the more discursive, political sections are Videtta's, but that is only a guess. Perhaps it was a genuine collaboration. Though it hardly matters, given the fina result. Nor does it matter that it was easy to figure out who the culprit was before I was halfway through the book, causing me to practically scream at the characters to realize what was going on. But family ties can hide the obvious. But then Poisonville isn't really a whodunnit as such, but something much more interesting. Moreover, it's a good thing the city in which Poisonville takes place is never named, otherwise Carlotta and Videtta would not be all that welcome there. Once again, Europa has proved itself to be in the front line of European crime fiction.
London-based journalist and author of Pulp Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War; Neon Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction; and Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood.