Home > 2010, 21st Century, Beach and Public Transports Books, Crime Fiction, Italian Literature, Manzini Antonio > Black Run by Antonio Manzini – crime fiction in the Italian Alps

Black Run by Antonio Manzini – crime fiction in the Italian Alps

Black Run by Antonio Manzini (2013) French title: Piste noire. Translated from the Italian by Samuel Sfez

Rocco Schiavone had an entirely personal hierarchy up and down which he ranked the pains in the ass that life senselessly inflicted on him every day. The scale actually started at 6, which covered anything that had to do with keeping house: grocery shopping, plumbers, paying rent. The number 7 included malls, banks, medical clinics, and doctors in general, with a special bonus for dentists, and concluded with work diners or family diners, though all his living relatives, thank God, were down south in Rome. An 8 on the hierarchy began, first and foremost, with public speaking, followed by any and all bureaucratic procedures required for his job, going to the theatre, and reporting to chiefs of police or investigating magistrates. At number 9 came tobacco shops that weren’t open when he needed a pack of cigarettes, cafés that didn’t carry Algida ice cream bars, running in anyone who wanted to talk and talk endlessly, and especially stakeouts with police officers who needed a bath.

Topping the hierarchy, the worst and the most dreaded, was a rating of 10. The top, the worst, the mother of all pains in the ass: the investigation he wasn’t expecting.

Translated by Antony Shugaar

Black Run by Antonio Manzini is an Italian crime fiction novel set in the Italian Alps, near the French border, in the Valle d’Aosta. Deputy Police Chief Rocco Schiavone is the one who has the scale to rank up pains in the ass in life. This quote describes his grumpy self. He’s been sent from Rome to this valley against his will and he likes nothing there. The weather, the people, his staff, the atmosphere, everything rubs him the wrong way.

Black Run starts with a dead body found on a ski slope. Amadeo Gunelli drives a snowcat and prepares runs for the upcoming ski weekend at the Champoluc ski resort when he collides and drives over a corpse. Needless to say, the body is hard to recognize after that.

Schiavone is woken up in the middle of the night to drive up in the mountain and go to the crime scene. That’s were we learn about his rating of life’s pains in the ass and his methods to lead crime investigations.

I will not write about the plot itself, it’s a straightforward police investigation with financial and love interests intermingled in a close-knit community. The case was OK but I was only looking for entertainment when I bought this book.

My problem was that I totally disliked Schiavone. He’s obnoxious. He’s unhappy to have to go to the mountains and cares more about style than practicalities. That’s why he walks around in Clarke shoes in a ski resort: he wouldn’t want to be caught wearing ugly snow boots. He truly despises his team and treats them like they are morons.

He’s callous with women, objectifying them, flirting with everything that has a skirt and that he finds relatively attractive. He always appraises their worth according to their looks. This macho attitude could be tolerable from a writer born a century ago but not from a contemporary writer.

And, he’s also a corrupt cop, having illegal activities on the side. He had his own personal drama when he was still in Rome but I didn’t like him enough to care.

I know that you don’t have to like the characters of a book to enjoy it. But it’s different with crime fiction series. You need to like the main character enough to want to stick with him or her and follow him or her in her other investigations. Here, I didn’t like Schiavone and I won’t be reading any other book from this series.

Has anyone read a book with Schiavone too? If yes, what did you think about it?

  1. August 2, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    Exactly – I was also discomfited by the main character and felt that generally all of the characters were wafer thin, so I just didn’t care.


    • August 3, 2019 at 2:24 pm

      Same impression here but the worst was the insufferable main character.


  2. August 3, 2019 at 12:13 am

    I have this one (unread).
    When I saw the post, I thought “oh great, Emma can tell me what she thought of it,” but I thought you were going to say you liked it.
    You are right, if you are locked into a series, you have to want to hang out with the main series character. Otherwise: why return?


    • August 3, 2019 at 2:25 pm

      Sorry to bear bad news. Marina Sofia didn’t like it either.
      Let me know what you think about it.


  3. August 3, 2019 at 4:57 am

    I can see stakeouts with police officers who needed a bath might be a ten. I think he’s a bit sensitive about some of the others. The only Italian detective series I read is Inspector Montalbano, which I love. I see, sadly, the creator Andrea Camilleri, died a couple of weeks ago, age 93.


    • August 3, 2019 at 2:26 pm

      Yeah, I can see why this would be a ten, too.

      I’ve only read one Camilleri and loved Montalbano. These two detectives have nothing in common, unfortunately.


  4. August 7, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    Good point on how while generally there’s no need for sympathetic characters, in a crime series you do need to like the lead (or at least a couple of key sidekicks). By contrast to this, the likability of Bosch came through in your review of that, and so it’s much easier to follow him across multiple books.


    • August 7, 2019 at 9:10 pm

      I like what Guy said before: you need to feel like hanging out with the lead characters when you start a crime fiction series.


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