Day After Day
There’s something of a sense of predictability to Day After Day, a giallo novel by Carlo Lucarelli, better known to some as the co-writer of Dario Argento’s Sleepless. As the second book to focus on the character of Inspector Grazia Negro, the first being Almost Blue (itself turned into a film by Alex Infascelli), it continually evokes its predecessor in terms of plot points and overall style. Once again, the scenario is that of a serial killer who proves to be a master of disguise, and once again, the key to catching him seems to lie in the lap of a socially maladjusted young man with an affinity with technology, who stumbles upon the killer by pure chance.
Like Almost Blue, the novel is a brisk and pacey affair, and once again I suspect that the translation, by Oonagh Stransky, has a lot to do with its effectiveness, given the rhythmic quality of the language. Lucarelli has quite a flair for getting inside the heads of his characters, particularly the villains, describing what they see and what they are thinking in such a way as to make the mundane seem interesting. In the case of the killer, Vittorio (that’s not a spoiler - his identity is revealed to us from the outset), we get to see what goes through his head as he observes the public, storing nuggets of information about their appearances and mannerisms that may or may not be useful in the future for one of his disguises. It’s all quite fascinating and well observed.
Something else that I like about Lucarelli’s writing is his ability to use description to give the impression that the reader is watching a film. There is a scene in which Grazia is in her office, listening to a tape recording of the interrogation of a suspect. The dialogue between the suspect and the investigating officer is intercut with descriptions of the office and the various items inside it - post-its on the notice board, photographs and so on - gradually unveiled in such a way as to suggest that a camera is snaking its way around the room, moving from one object to the next. I’d be very interested to see this adapted as a film, although I do wonder to what extent the characters’ inner thoughts, so important to the novel, would have to be jettisoned along the way.
The stand-out scene, meanwhile, is one in which the aforementioned social outcast, Alex, flees injured through a busy street in broad daylight as Vittorio, having killed all of his work colleagues, calmly follows him. It reminded me of the scene in Tenebre in which Bullmer is murdered on a sun-drenched plaza in full view of several people: this idea that that something terrible can be happening in a public place, and no-one notices. As if to hammer home the similarity, Alex later describes the experience as reminding him of when he watched Profondo Rosso on television.
It is, however, largely business as usual. The plot is such a retread of Almost Blue that there’s really nothing new to be gleaned. The book’s strengths lie largely in the telling rather than the story itself, and, while I would certainly read any future instalments in this series (the book’s open-ended nature suggests that there will be a sequel somewhere down the line), I would hope that Lucarelli would be able to come up with something less of a retread.