Saturday, July 28, 2007

Another Italian: Carofiglio

Gianrico Carofiglio is another Italian crime writer who writes what he knows. Michele Giuttari is a detective and Carofiglio was an anti-mafia prosecutor. His character is a defense lawyer in Bari, but has frequent cause to delve into the world of prosecutors, detectives, and mafias (mostly that of Calabria, also the former stomping ground of Giuttari). But Carofiglio's writing is understated and natural, without the (sometimes unfortunate, to me) dramatics of his fellow countryman's writing. In this third novel featuring Guido Guerrieri, the lawyer is dumped into a case that includes a former Fascist thug who may be a murderer and is now charged with drug smuggling (he says he was framed), a beautiful Japanese-Italian wife and mother, a mafia lawyer, and his own continuing funk (he's now been left by two women). Guido is a charming guide to his legal quandaries and his disastrous private life, and part of his charm is his self-effacing attitude--he's always uncertain, guilty, and tentative in his dealings with both women and the law. He's also no detective--he relies on informants in the police and the prosecutor's office, and his inquiries on behalf of his clients move forward naturally, without much effort on his part (but with much worry and consternation). Along the way, we get to see the daily life in Baria, the chief city of Puglia, a region of Italy not often open to us through fiction (much less crime fiction). These novels are low-key masterpieces of the form--I don't often read legal thrillers, but Carofiglio's are not limited by the typical theatrics of that genre. Reasonable Doubts doesn't turn on the uncovering of key evidence or revelations on the witness stand: it proceeds by means of Guido's determination, his occasional insights, and the genuine conviction of his arguments in court. As is occasionally mentioned by his clients and others who know him, he's a good man. Highly recommended (as is Giuttari's novel, see below, but Carofiglio is a better writer).

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