Author: Luca D'Andrea
Source: Received for an honest review from the publisher
Blurb: Jeremiah Salinger blames himself. The crash was his fault. He was the only survivor. Now only his daughter Clara can put a smile on his face. The depression and the nightmares are closing in. But when he takes Clara to the Bletterbach - a canyon in the Dolomites rich in fossil remains - he overhears by chance a conversation that gives his life renewed focus. In 1985 three students were murdered there, their bodies savaged, limbs severed and strewn by a killer who was never found. Salinger, a New Yorker, is far from home, and these Italian mountains, where his wife was born, harbour a close-knit, tight-lipped community whose mistrust of outsiders can turn ugly. All the same, solving this mystery might be the only thing that can keep him sane.Translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis.
This was masterful. Every element from characters to atmosphere to the perfectly paced plot was so wonderfully created. This is a book I can tell I am going to be fanatical about. I went in almost blind to this which I think worked out pretty well. The first chapter was a tad disorienting but it was to great effect in the end.
The characters Luca D'Andrea created felt so very, very real. Their interactions felt natural, not formulated for a plot direction and they had little quirks that added to their charm. Clara was delightful, a little spot of sunshine in an otherwise deeply unsettling read. Salinger himself had a mind it was great to be inside of. I could understand his deep curiosity or, as he put it, obsession about the murders. I also desperately wanted him to drop the whole issue because it was going so badly for him.
But the plot was my absolute favourite part. I cant remember the last time I read something so perfectly paced. It doesn't start small by any means. Salinger goes through hell very early in the book but the suffering he, and by extension the reader, goes through increases throughout the book. Reveals are spaced so that you constantly feel like you're almost - almost - reaching for the truth but never quite able to grasp it. So many times I thought I'd finally found a handle on it only to have it slip away entirely.
This is a hard book to walk away from. Eating, sleeping, everyday life became very much a nuisance because I just needed to know. Like Salinger, the mystery ate away at me until I was formulating theories in my head even when I wasn't reading it.
The atmosphere as well was excellent. The small town animosity to outsiders from the view of an outsider is always a fascinating viewpoint. The community was so interesting and mysterious. But its the Bletterbach that truly grasped me. It was foreboding from the start and the more that was revealed the more ominous it became - and yet the more I wanted to uncover about it. The last book I read with an atmosphere this strong was Ararat by Christopher Golden which bears mentioning because those who enjoy this will enjoy that and vice versa.
This is a translated novel and it is worth mentioning that the translation is incredible. I sometimes struggle with translated books when words or phrases don't translate well or crucial elements seem lost or awkward. But this read really well.
If you love atmospheric thrillers with a touch of horror then you need to read this! This is, no exaggeration, one of the best books I've read and I'll definitely be re-reading it and also desperately ordering anything else by Luca D'Andrea.