Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Lawyer Fights Injustice! For Free! Okay, it's a novel.
A WALK IN THE DARK (Guido Guerrieri #2)
Bitter Lemon Press
$14.95 trade paper, available now
Reviewed by Richard, 4.9* of five
The Publisher Says: When Martina accuses her ex-boyfriend—the son of a powerful local judge—of assault and battery, no witnesses can be persuaded to testify on her behalf, and one lawyer after another refuses to represent her. Guido Guerrieri knows the case could bring his legal career to a messy end, but he cannot resist the appeal of a hopeless cause. Nor can he deny an attraction to Sister Claudia, the young woman in charge of the shelter where Martina is living, who shares his love of martial arts and his virulent hatred of injustice.
My Review: In the second installment of the Avv. Guido Guerriri legal thriller series, Our Hero has accepted the case of an abused woman who wants to bring civil suit against her battering, stalking ex-lover. Who just happens to be the son of the most powerful criminal judge in the city of Bari. And he didn't get that way by passing out Christmas hams to the needy, if you get my drift. Martina, at considerable risk to herself, wishes to put an end to the charm in her ex's charmed life by making him face publically the harm he's done her; he isn't, unsurprisingly, prepared to let this happen, and he retains the meanest, most sick-making kind of silk-upholstered shit-sack of a lawyer one can imagine. (The author being a judge, I suspect this character is a sarcastic payback on someone or someones he's dealt with in his anti-Mafia trials.)
Cue Guido's Don Quixote music! Saddle up, Sancho Reader, we're going for a tilt at the windmill of privilege, social and societal. Guido hears about the case with aplomb...she's gotta be kidding, so he slapped her around, this isn't a criminal case, c'mon! stalking? what, a man can't walk down a street?...until a combination of a feminist martial artist/nun, a female public prosecutor, and the head of the local deviant crimes unit all singing the same song makes him listen, and re-evaluate. Then they tell him who is alleged to have committed the crime.
Whoa Nelly! Career suicide help line, my name is don't do it, please tell me everything...and by god, Guido does the amazing and the improbable: He learns to accept that male privilege is a mindset, and society doesn't even notice it. (I'd add straight privilege if it was relevant, which it's not here, but it's equally virulent.) He's already sure he wants to take down the son of the local bought judge because he's an old leftist. (Old, hell, he's a puppy of forty.)
And Guido works his most sneaky, ju-jitsu-inspired magic in the trial that ensues. He really gives it a twist this time. So does the author. SUCH a twist, with nuns and cops and lawyers and sleazeballs all enmeshed in a fracas that had me, no exaggeration, gasping and jumping up and down.
In a paltry 215pp, I lived through the entire range of my emotional reactions to violence. Each of them. In turn, simultaneously, in order of virulence, and finally in catharsis.
I am not a subscriber to the Woman is Saintly Victim school of thought. I do not believe that men are abusers and women victims by nature, despite the crap that infests our fictional bookosphere. The issue of stalking, and its nastier ancillary complexes, is a very real one and a very scary one. The world has mean, nasty, horrible people in it, and by all that's holy, they need to be put away, stopped, found out and exposed. This novel satiated my strong need for that to happen, and it did a brilliant job of it.
The ending, while emotionally intense and not entirely pleasant, came close to being perfect. Close, so close...one event did not happen, and that is my one cavil with the whole thing.
I'm a big fan of the less prurient, more procedural style Carofiglio uses in these books, compared to the confessional, almost pornographic closeness to the dramatis personae most American procedurals use. Don't be surprised if your take on the style changes...from con to pro, but possibly the reverse...in this installment. It's a balancing act, as it always must be, to decide what details to present, what relationships to flesh out, what to suggest and what to explain. Carofiglio makes the most use of suggestion of any crime writer I've found.
Me likey. A lot.