Archive for February 1, 2012

In Bari on Southern Italy’s Adriatic coast,  defence lawyer Guido Guerrieri is asked to look over the investigation into the disappearance of Manuela Ferraro, by Sabino Fornelli, a civil lawyer, acting on behalf of her distraught parents. Manuela was staying with friends, who have a group of ‘trulli’ in the countryside near Ostuni. Six months ago Manuela was given a lift to the train station in Ostuni, and has not been seen or heard from since.

The story is narrated by Guido, who realises this assignment is outside his comfort zone but is flattered it is thought he could uncover some fact missed by the police. After some prevarication Guido begins to go over the police work and following a pattern set by his crime fiction heroes [Matthew Scudder, Harry Bosch and Steve Carella] he interviews the investigating officer, and then moves on to Manuela’s friends including the disconcerting beautiful twenty three year old Caterina Pontrandolfi.

……..and resembled certain photographs of a young Marianne Faithfull. 

The flimsy and very feminine outfit-perhaps a little too flimsy, considering the season-that she wore under a denim jacket clashed pleasantly with her powerful swimmer’s physique.

The first person narrative gives us all Guido’s thought processes and a stream of interesting recollections from his past, as well as back stories about other characters. In the hands of a less accomplished author this might hold up the action, but Carofiglio seems to know the ideal length for these asides which add so much to the story. Guerrieri is forty five years old and now on his own with sometimes only Mr Bag [his battered patched-up punchbag] for company so it is natural for him to reminisce about his past relationships. The story is full of insights into a hero, whose humanity is both a strength and a vulnerability. 

So I spell it out for them, saying, “Avvocato Consuelo Favia, a lawyer who’s been working with me for several months now. We’ll be handling your case together.”

Their astonishment is understandable, and it’s not racism, per se. It’s just that in Bari, and in Italy in general, people still don’t expect a young woman with dark brown-skin and Andean features to be a lawyer.

Guido’s long walks around the city and his long conversations with his former client ex-prostitute Nadia, and her huge dog Pinto [renamed Baskerville by Guido], are the key to bringing the case to a conclusion. But that is not before Guido faces a few harsh facts about himself, and his profession.

The issue, though, isn’t whether there are bad or incompetent people practising law, or whether the work tends to exaggerate some of the worst qualities of the human mind, and of human beings in general.

This is the fourth book in a very good series, with the books written in an easy to read style but full of intelligent discussions about the flawed Italian legal system movies, drugs, relationships and personal morality. 

” I was asking because your boyfriend, if you have one, might not be that happy about you flying somewhere with another man, especially a man much older than you.”

But in Italian crime fiction there are always much less serious subjects to be discussed.

A tiella of rice , mussels and potatoes is not too different from a paella valenciana, though any Barese will tell you it’s much, much better. Here’s how you make it: you take a cast-iron pan-or tiella, as we call it-and layer it with rice,mussels, potatoes, courgettes, and chopped fresh tomatoes………

Let us hope it is not too long before another Guido Guerrieri book is published.

Author Gianrico Carofiglio was an anti-Mafia prosecutor in Bari for many years and is now a member of the Italian Senate.  

I could not resist reposting this gem from 2007:

I heard an excellent performance by Gianrico Carofiglio on Simon Mayo’s BBC Five program this afternoon. He was in London to promote Reasonable Doubts [reviewed here on Crime Scraps], but despite being constantly interupted for non-news from Moscow, he answered some of Mayo’s inane questions with charm and good humour. He also gave us some fine insights into the character of his creation the lawyer Guido Guerreri, a man with vulnerabilities and a surprisingly caring side to his nature. 

Gianrico told Simon he had been an anti-Mafia prosecutor, and was then asked “Is that a dangerous job?”

“Not really Simon I just had four bodyguards, and the use of a specially armoured car.”