Baraldi, Barbara - 'The Girl with the Crystal Eyes' (translated by Judith Forshaw)
"A seductive serial killer is stalking the streets of Bologna", according to the blurb. If that's your cup of tea, then you might enjoy this novel. The story is about two young women. One of them, Eva, lives alone with her cat Miew. She's never had a boyfriend, is very shy, and works at an advertising agency in a menial job scanning photos all day. The other, Viola, lives with a man who seems to be a criminal of some kind and who doesn't care much about her, so she's depressed - to an extent that becomes apparent later on. The story of the lives of these two neurotic young women is told against the background of a series of murders, being investigated by a cop called Marconi. Gradually, he realises that the crimes seem to be the work of an attractive woman who succeeds at her grim task because the victim has other things on his mind than the prospect of being murdered.
A lot of the book is about Eva's and Viola's lives at work and at home, at the level of "chick-lit". Eva is attacked one day and takes to her bed for a few days. A colleague, Giulia, comes to see her and begins to encourage her out of her shell. Eva becomes more and more independent, but the reader is now aware that Giulia is not all that she at first seemed, either. At the same time, the extent of Viola's desperation becomes more evident.
Much of the suspense of the novel depends on us not knowing which woman is being written about in various passages. One of them, for example, goes to the police station to report that she's having nightmares that predict that someone will die, but we don't know which one of the women it is.
The novel is written at a very easy-reading level, not exactly taxing the intelligence. Strangely, the name of the translator, Judith Forshaw, is not on the title page but buried in the small print of the publisher's details. I have admit that this book isn't one I found possible to enjoy, as I wasn't interested in which of the three women (if any) turned out to be the killer, or in the police team, or in the (in my opinion clunky) attempts at providing frisson by some unusual murder scenes and methods.
Maxine Clarke, England
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.