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International Dagger Delight

The shortlist for the 2012 Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger was announced on Friday at Bristol’s CrimeFest, and two of the books on the list — one third of them, that is — were MacLehose Press books.

Åsa Larsson, who was present at the announcement, has been shortlisted for the second time for Until Thy Wrath Be Past (trans. Laurie Thompson) (The Savage Altar was one of the six in 2007), which Valerio Varesi has made it two years in a row with The Dark Valley (trans. Joseph Farrell), the second of his Commissario Soneri novels to be published in English. His first, River of Shadows, was shortlisted for the 2011 award. The full list reads as follow:

The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri, translated by Stephen Sartarelli
I will have Vengeance by Maurizio de Giovanni, translated by Anne Milano Appel
Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Åsa Larsson, translated by Laurie Thompson
Trackers by Deon Meyer, translated by T K L Seegers
Phantom by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett
The Dark Valley by Valerio Varesi, translated by Joseph Farrell


Valerio Varesi – An Heir To Caravaggio?

Delighted to see this splendid review for Valerio Varesi’s The Dark Valley from Rosemary Goring in the Herald.

In his debut and now with this, if possible, bleaker offering, he pares away the surface of modern Italy like a grocer slicing rind off pecorino. What he finds below is rancid. The crimes he depicts are the product of the country’s ugliest times, their origins in the conflicts between the past century’s partisans and fascists, and those vacillating in between, who only wanted to save their skins.


Varesi’s plotting is sound, and his pacing good. Where he raises his game from the common crime ruck, however, is in his almost painterly evocation of wretchedly dark atmosphere and character. He could be the long-lost heir of Caravaggio. His grizzled old men and their flinty womenfolk are at odds with the country’s much-desired bella figura, but they are the heart and soul of a certain hard-bitten and punishing Italian community, where even today old enmities smoulder.

A few chapters into The Dark Valley, and the reader is coated in woodsmoke and filled with apprehension. The unnerving and the unrelenting are Varesi’s forte, and the setting and history of his homeland play into his hands.

You can read the full review on the Herald website. Varesi’s first novel in English translation, River of Shadows, is now available in paperback.

Valerio Varesi Returns

Valerio Varesi’s first novel in translation, River of Shadows, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association’s International Dagger award in

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2011, and was very well received by the press: Boyd Tonkin in the Independent hailed Varesi as a “master storyteller”.

Well, now he is back with The Dark Valley, a similarly dark and brooding mystery, once again with roots in Italy’s murky past, the struggle between Fascists and Communists as the Second World War came to an end. Commissario Soneri escapes the stale politics of the prefecture in Parma to take a well-earned holiday in the village of his birth, but finds its inhabitants in uproar over the collapse of its main industry, a salame factory owned by the Rodolfi family.

Readers of River of Shadows will delight in the same smouldering, slow-burn atmosphere and intensity, but perhaps find a difference in the drama that surrounds the Dark Valley‘s climax. As bodies begin to appear in the woods, the Carabinieri launch an all-out assault on their prime suspect, an old woodsman who still lives on the same mountain he defended from S.S. commandos decades earlier.

As with River of Shadows, much of the appeal lies with the Commissario himself: hard-boiled sophisticate, bon viveur and ladies’ man. His reluctant involvement in the case becomes all the more personal when he learns that his father and the Roldofi patriarch were once friends.

Varesi Shortlisted For International Dagger

Italian crime writer Valerio Varesi has been shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger at the first attempt for his novel River of Shadows (translated from the Italian by Joseph Farrell), the first of the Inspector Soneri Investigations to be translated into English.

MacLehose Press will be publishing (at least) two further Inspector Soneri novels: The Dark Valley in 2012 and Gold, Frankincense and Dust in 2013. River of Shadows received excellent reviews in the UK press and will be published in paperback in September.

Varesi has worked for many years as a journalist for La Stampa, La Repubblica and  Gazzetta di Parma, and his crime novels reflect his scholarly interest in Italy’s postwar politics, with many of his mysteries hinging on long-ago conflicts between left-leaning partisans and the fascist authorities.

River of Shadows was nominated for The Strega Prize, Italy’s most prestigious literary award, and the television drama based on the novels was shortlisted for the Prix Italia for best Television Programme.

Varesi Casts Long Shadow

September was a big month for international crime fiction, as Commissario Soneri became the lastest suave and taciturn continental detective to be introduced to these shores by MacLehose Press.

Valerio Varesi’s series has already gone down a storm in Italy, where it has been filmed for television, and River of Shadows has been gathering rave reviews in UK broadsheets.

Barry Forshaw in the Independent wondered whether the atmospheric wind-and-rain-swept first chapter could have been ‘the half-remembered opening chapter of a novel by Dickens’. ‘The real coups of River of Shadows‘, he concluded, ‘are twofold: the author’s trenchant analysis of his country’s ignoble past, married to the narrative acumen of a master storyteller’.

Laura Wilson in the Guardian also made the Dickens comparison, and appreciated Varesi’s ‘good line in wry humour’. Rosemary Goring in the Herald found ‘the slow-burn of the storytelling… refreshing’ and

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observed that while Italy may not be the carefree country it sometimes seems to outsiders, ‘the sinister secrets it nurses are fodder for good fiction’.

Luca Barbareschi as Commissario Soneri

And if the Commissario Soneri Investigations take off, given the success of the Swedish Wallander series on BBC Four, it may not be long before the likes of Luca Barbareschi and Natasha Stefanenko, the stars of the Italian Soneri series, are gracing our screens on a Sunday night.