Carlotto has teamed up with Italian screenwriter Marco Videtta for a new novel, Poisonville, which we recently read with great interest. The story concerns a young lawyer who seems to have it all — a promising legal career, an imminent partnership with his esteemed father, and a beautiful, talented fiancee. When his girlfriend is murdered just days away from their wedding, he must navigate the small-town alliances, scandals and dubious histories to clear his name and bring the killer to justice.
The plot is fairly standard. The killer is not hard to discover, and the story is a little shabby in places. But Poisonville is memorable for its setting — both physical, a once-vital northern Italian industrial town past its prime, and figurative, the upscale squalor made by modern greed. After jobs have been shipped to other countries for cheap labor and loose regulations, the crime and corruption left in the void consumes the integrity of the community's most upstanding figures. Prominent old families have resorted to unscrupulous means to maintain their wealth and status, and corporate interests eclipse the common good. The media hovers like flies, spreading sensationalism but missing the real story. It all seemed strangely familiar — a worldwide epidemic with a particularly Italian flair.
If it's not the most cutting edge thriller of the season, Poisonville kept us reading voraciously after recently putting down other, higher profile and more critically lauded mysteries that just couldn't deliver. Maybe it's the setting, or the shrewd political overtones, or the lack of desperate bombast that colors so much domestic suspense. Or maybe this underdog simply embodies the scrappiness and resilience of its author, the quiet dignity of its publisher, and the shady morality of its age.