Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gianrico Carofiglio --- Italian legal noir meets midlife stasis

Gianrico Carofiglio's crime and courtroom novels provide entertainment with a sense of ironic detachment, whatever that means. There's wry introspection combined with old style crime antics; compelling legal arguments and negotiating ploys accompanied by wise and unwise romantic liasons; and stories that develop at a reliably rapid pace. Three of Carofiglio's novels have been translated into English and published by Bitter Lemon Press. They certainly can't be classified as literature but there's a degree of literacy, humor and thought that's not often found in most of this genre. Easily more rewarding than almost any television program the stories tend to carry the reader, at least this reader, along for the ride with a focused yet relaxed style.

"Involuntary Witness" is the first in the series. It introduces the protagonist, the 40'ish lawyer Guido Guerrieri, in the process of a full blown psychological meltdown as his wife leaves him. Picking up the pieces slowly Guido defends a Senegalese peddler accused of murdering a child despite flimsy if any evidence. "A Walk in the Dark" finds Guido allied with a karate chopping nun who runs a refuge for battered women, allied against the well connected son of a senior judge who can ruin his career. Both the nun and a beautiful ex-alcoholic upstairs neighbor fall for Guido so his love life is revived, ultimately not with the nun of course. "Reasonable Doubts" has Guido on the ropes again as his now girlfriend ex-alcoholic upstairs neighbor jilts him for a girlfriend, hard on even an enlightened Guido, but he soon is engaged in defending a former neo-Fascist thug against drug charges, encouraged by said thugs stunning and willing Japanese Italian wife.

Despite this artless summary, the fact is that these books are really good if one has any interest in this genre. Whenever the next one comes along I will grab it immediately.


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