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Tuesday, 22 December 2009

"A picture from the past"/"Lampi di stampa"

Patrizia Debicke van der Noot


Translated by Noelle Collombet-Sankey


Patrizia Debicke Van der Noot is a stylish lady from Florence - but with Alsatian blood in her veins and a second husband from Luxemburg - with a passion for writing, a passion she derived also from her own cultured family. She has written some thrillers like "Il dipinto incompuito" and La tigre di giada" which the author herself described as a true international crime story. She has also written historical novels concerning above all characters and events of the Italian Renaissance, like "L'ora dei Medici" and "La gemma del Cardinale" which relate "extraordinary examples of investigations". Next March, she will publish with Corbaccio "l'uomo dagli occhi glauchi" inspired by a painting by the great Titian.

ImageBut from this refined author, one could say European by her cultural upbringing and her experience of life; I have chosen "A picture from the past" as the best book published by "Lampi di stampa". It is an exceptional and unusual thriller. As protagonists, the novel has two brothers or more precisely, two half-brothers, typical examples of today's extended families. The families are also extended from a geographical point of view because on the one hand, Peter Chambers has a British father and on the other hand Claude Rennac de Crecy has a French father.  The first is a special correspondent always traveling the world, the other is a geologist. Lu, a young girl of Chinese origins is loved by both brothers and seems on the point of dividing them but ultimately brotherly love seems to win. Lu marries Peter and seems to be happy with him. However, not long after the wedding, she is found naked and horribly massacred on top of the lifeless body of her brother-in-law, in his villa in Vincennes. The French police file the case by attributing the double murders to a group of drug addicts and apartment-breakers. The tragedy is a very hard blow for Peter who withdraws to a house in Luxemburg to write a travel book in an attempt to forget.  A year after the crime, the arrival of a letter from Claude deposited in a Swiss bank, written a few days before his murder, addressed to his brother and his fiancée, containing a picture from Milan, opens again the wound and the case. Claude and Lu's deaths conceal a secret; it is up to Peter and Laura to solve it. The key is in a "picture which comes from the past".


Although the author remains faithful to the canon of the detective novel, especially in its enthralling rhythm and by treating a very current and therefore not a novel theme, she leaves her original mark in her uncommon ability to move her characters in surroundings she has visited and known. This gives the story a sense of veracity, a quality which does not always come about with other writers of the genre, who create places and some realistic situations from their desks and for this reason, their work in the long term sounds false, if not ridiculous. If the settings from Paris, Geneva, London, Luxemburg, Tokyo and finally Baghdad are realistic, the theme which is tragic and rough is presented with decency, without ever lapsing into verbal excesses or unpolished depictions, uselessly violent, with tones and colours deliberately heightened. The writer respects the sensibility and the maturity of her readers, conscious of the fact that they can read between the lines, guess and participate. This elegance and this lightness are noticed also in the description of the characters who are alive, authentic and live their feelings with sincerity and honesty. The love story in point of fact does not slow down or hamper the perfectly constructed development of the narrative; in fact, it becomes an integral part of the story and makes the novel particularly enjoyable to the reader.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 25 March 2010 )
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