commissaire inspector dottore
a bibliography of detective-inspector novels
the rocco schiavone seriesPista Nera. Palermo: Sellerio, 2013.
∴ Black Run. Translated by Antony Shugaar. New York: Harper, 2015.
∴ Piste noire. Translated by Samuel Sfez. Paris: Denoël, 2015.
∴ Der Gefrierpunkt des Blutes. Translated by Anja Rüdiger. Hamburg: Rowohlt, 2015.
∴ Pista negra. Translated by Teresa Clavel. Barcelona: Salamandra, 2015.
∴ Czarna trasa. Translated by Pawel Bravo. Warszawa: Muza, 2017.
La costola di Adamo. Palermo: Sellerio, 2014.
∴ La costilla de Adán. Translated by Regina López and Julia Osuna. Barcelona: Salamandra, 2015.
∴ A Cold Death. Translated by Antony Shugaar. London: 4th Estate, 2016. Reprinted as Adam's Rib. New York: Harper, 2016.
∴ Froid comme la mort. Translated by Anaïs Bouteille-Bokobza. Paris: Denoël, 2016.
∴ Die Kälte des Todes. Translated by Anja Rüdiger. Hamburg: Rowohlt, 2016.
∴ Zebro Adama. Translated by Pawel Bravo. Warszawa: Muza, 2017.
Non è stagione. Palermo: Sellerio, 2015.
∴ Alte Wunden. Translated by Anja Rüdiger. Hamburg: Rowohlt, 2017.
∴ Una primavera de perros. Translated by Regina López & Julia Osuna. Barcelona: Salamandra, 2016.
∴ Out of Season. Translated by Anthony Shugaar. New York: Harper, 2018.
∴ Zia pora roku. Translated by Pawel Bravo. Warszawa: Muza, 2018.
∴ Maudit printemps. Translated by Samuel Sfez. Paris: Denoël, 2018.
Era di maggio. Palermo: Sellerio, 2015.
∴ Sol de mayo. Translated by Julia Osuna Aguilar. Barcelona: Salamandra, 2017.
∴ Un homme seul. Translated by Samuel Sfez. Paris: Denoël, 2018.
∴ Kalter Tag im Mai. Translated by Anja Rüdiger. Reinbek: Rowohlt, 2019.
7-7-2007. Palermo: Sellerio, 2016.
∴ 7-7-2007. Translated by Julia Osuna Aguilar. Barcelona: Salamandra, 2018.
Pulvis et umbra. Palermo: Sellerio, 2017.
Fate il vostro gioco. Palermo: Sellerio, 2018.
Rocco Schiavone, a police supervisor newly transferred from Rome to the ski paradise of the Val d'Aosta, has a hard time getting his bearings – he has a hard time relating to his new team, and even harder one dealing with a new climate, and hardest of all are his personal demons.
Pista nera is a solid, standard entry in the detective-inspector genre. I heard of Antonio Manzini's novel while reading one of Andrea Camilleri's – I'm pretty sure it was La rete di protezione. In Camilleri's novel, Salvo Montalbano reads and enjoys a romanzo giallo about a displaced police commissioner who finds himself in the ski country of alpine Italy. Camilleri might not even give the name of the novel that Montalbano reads, but the mention is a masterpiece of product placement. It proved easy enough to track down Pista nera, which proves to be from Camilleri's own publishers, the Sicilian house Sellerio.
Rocco Schiavone is in many ways a successor to Salvo Montalbano in the world of Italian crime fiction. Like Montalbano, Schiavone is a senior office but something of an outsider on his beat. His subordinates know the lay of the land much better than he does. (And Rocco has some excuse for this, since he's been in Aosta just four months, while Montalbano still seems a stranger in Vigàta after decades.) Schiavone is a Roman who has been transferred to the snowy north for reasons that are, at first, obscure. He is a bit neurotic and a bit helpless: his initial character note is the pair of Clarks that he wears through several snowdrifts till they nearly disintegrate on his feet.
Schiavone spends a lot of time in the snow, because the murder victim in Pista Nera has been chewed up by one of those machines that clears the slopes for the next day (a gatto delle nevi; I'm not ski-savvy enough to know what they're called in English). It's not the gatto driver's fault – somebody else dumped Leone Micciché's body in the snow for the machine to mangle. Leone leaves behind a beautiful widow, a thriving ski-related business, a pile of debts, a feud with a Sicilian brother, and a number of sexual rivalries. We're in classic small-community mystery-novel territory from the start.
The eventual solution to the murder mystery is not crucial to the novel's appeal. It's an Agatha-Christie-like setup (though they're not actually all snowed in), and the culprit is found via some very Conan-Doyle-like clues. The heart of any detective-inspector novel, though, is the interplay between the inspector and his colleagues. Manzini spends a lot of time establishing the groundwork for a considerable series of novels to come.
Naturally, Rocco Schiavone has been saddled with a couple of idiots, named Deruta and D'Intino. We don't even see much of their incompetence before he sends them off on a wild-goose-chase mission just so they'll keep out of his way. (I don't think I've ever seen police procedure used in quite so flippant a way before). More reliable is a detective named Casella, though he's relegated mostly to driving duties in this one. Schiavone's best colleagues are Caterina Rispoli, sparingly used here though apparently quite competent, and Italo Pierron, who becomes Rocco's confidant (if not truly his friend yet) and even Rocco's partner in some shady off-the-books activities.
Yes, Rocco Schiavone is not the cleanest of cops. Or the most sober, though his drug of choice is weed, not liquor. His immediate supervisor, the questore Corsi, is a publicity-hungry idiot, but the other main authority in town is the magistrate Baldi, a shrewd pragmatist who sees through Rocco's various schemes but realizes that he can make use of Rocco if he holds that knowledge over him.
And, naturally, Rocco has personal anguish to contend with. Early in the novel it's established that he sleeps with a new girlfriend from the Val d'Aosta (Nora) and then goes home to his Roman wife Marina. Rocco wouldn't be the first fictional detective to juggle wife and lover – but the reader quickly tips to the fact that there aren't enough hours in the day for him to be spending with both these women, neither of whom seem to suspect the existence of the other. Plus, his dialogue with Marina seems to occur only in italics. What's going on? It's no spoiler to say that by the end of this first series novel, you still don't know entirely. But the situation is fraught, and ultimately unstable. Nora knows this: she loves sex with Rocco, but he seems to be totally present in their relationship only during sex: not before, not after, not in any waking moments when they're not coupled.
Però Nora non poteva mica passare il resto dei suoi giorni nuda e incastrata al corpo di Rocco Schiavone per avere un po' di serenità!
[But Nora couldn't spend the rest of her days naked and stuck to Rocco Schiavone's body just to get a little peace!] (81)