Thursday, April 4, 2013
Italian Procedural Series Awesomeness
Bitter Lemon Press
$13.95, Available now
Reviewed by Richard, 4.9* of five
The Book Report: Avvocato Guido Guerrieri, lawyer of Bari on Italy's southeastern coast, is fast approaching forty, newly separated from his wife of ten lost, bored years, and in the grips of the worst constellation of anxiety symptoms since Mr. Monk on the TV.He's moved into an apartment that he couldn't describe if you held a gun to his head, and he's absolutely unable to muster even a fake interest in his clients' problems. He sits, smiles, nods, files paperwork by rote, and in short lives on autopilot.
And then in walks a woman with a case. No money, but a case.
Non-European citizen Abajaje, Egyptian by birth, wants Guido to defend her...her...co-continental? boyfriend? fellow sufferer from race bias?...Abdou, a Senegalese immigrant and fake handbag selling beach vendor, against charges that he, a multilingual schoolteacher in Africa, with a love for children, did willfully restrain and cause harm to a child. The police are sure he did it; the few witnesses are sure it was him they saw acting strangely and cruising around the beach at the relevant time; what's the big deal here, anyway, he's just a black dude who talked to the kid, must be him who killed little Ciccio.
Except he was in Naples at the time. Guerrieri, in spite of himself, is intrigued by what the case doesn't have, proof, and what it does have, the defendant's improbable, unprovable, but true, alibi. Is truth capable of beating out prejudice in an Italian justice system not known for its love of Veracity, but more for her sister Verisimilitude?
My Review: For 137pp, Carofiglio sets the stage with Guerrieri's craziness, his lackadaisical work habits, his depressed past and anxious present. It's all very nicely written, eg:
"You are intelligent, Avvocato. I have always thought of myself as more intelligent than other people. This is not a lucky thing, but it is hard to understand that.If you think yourself more intelligent than others, you fail to understand a lot of things, until they are suddenly brought home to you. And then it's too late." (p112, paper edition)
Thus Abdou the Non-European citizen to his lawyer in the prison's meeting room. I was regularly able to pause and appreciate the euphony and the accuracy of Carofiglio's writing. It shines through the book that he was a judge, in fact one of the judges who very bravely brought in guilty verdicts against Mafia defendants in the 90s trials that revolutiionized Italy's southern social structure.
So it's no surprise to anyone that, in the last ~130pp, Carofiglio delivers the best, most complete, court trial I've read between book covers. It's a gem. It's pitch-perfect, and it's so nicely built that I hate to reveal it in detail. It's different than the standard American courtroom drama, because it's about the words, not the deeds, of the players. It's like listening to a fine old radio drama after watching an episode of "Starsky and Hutch" on AntennaTV.
It's a pleasure. I'm delighted to have found Sig. Carofiglio and Avv. Guerrieri at last.