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Christmas Reading from Bitter Lemon

The Cold Summer by Gianrico Carofiglio, translated by Howard Curtis.
Do we need another mafia story? There are plenty of them, in fiction, film, and TV, portraying mafia families in the United States and Italy, and in other countries infected by organised crime. But Gianrico Carofiglio offers an unusually detailed and fascinating portrait, far beyond the clichés of crime families and godfathers, in his new The Cold Summer, along with a contrasting portrait of how the criminal organisation and the police define and control reality. The complex structure of Carofiglio’s narrative, with multiple structural and social parallels at the local and national level, contrasting criminal and civil worlds, and personal events in the lives of the characters, serves to reinforce the emphasis of the novel on the crucial role of structure in human life. But it is ultimately the ethical and sometimes contemplative Fenoglio who holds the whole novel together. His humanity holds out hope for some respite from the violence and corruption that lie behind all the story’s events. As he himself says of his role, what he does (and who he is) “gives meaning to chaos.”

The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and other stories by Teresa Solana, translated by Peter Bush.
Our best title ever? Solana’s love of surrealism and black humour shines through in her novels, but these short stories show her true strengths. In the title story, a prehistoric detective is asked to investigate a triple-murder which is threatening to disrupt cave life. He becomes not only the world’s first detective, but also the first religious charlatan. He might even consider inventing psychoanalysis – after all, it’s not like he has anything better to do. The second collection in this volume contains stories representing a mosaic of Barcelona as a city of contrasts, hustlers and low level criminals, bending the law not just to survive, but to live large and keep boredom at bay.

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