Friday, June 09, 2006

Why are so many good European mysteries and thrillers coming to America these days from paperback specialists like England’s Bitter Lemon Press? One answer might be a note on the indicia page of their latest offering: “Bitter Lemon Press gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the Arts Council of England.” What sort of similar help does America provide?

Night Bus, written by Giampiero Rigosi and translated by Ann Goldstein, is a dark and beautiful book – part classic noir but also deeply rooted in the contemporary Italian landscape. Not surprisingly, Rigosi was born in Bologna and drove a bus there – both of which play important parts in his debut novel, about a sexy young hustler named Leila who picks up men in nightclubs and robs them. One of her victims is carrying more than cash and plastic: Leila winds up running for her life because of a document that involves some very high-level political blackmail.