A month or so ago I read Temporary Perfections by Carofiglio which I received through the Amazon Vine programme. Knew nothing about the author other than it was a detective/thriller set in Italy and I am a sucker for those so asked for it to be sent to me. I read it with enjoyment and here is what I said about it at the time:
"Now I have just read Temporary Perfections by Gianrico Carofiglio set in Bari, a port on the coast of Puglia. His main protagonist is Guido Guerrieri a defence counsel. He is in his forties, lives on his own and, much to his surprise, is a good lawyer. One day he is asked to investigate the disappearance of a young girl, Manuela, the daughter of a rich couple living in Bari. Nobody can track her down or find her and though this assignment is more suited to an investigator than a defence lawyer, Guido takes it on.
He retraces the steps already investigated by the Carabinieri and, at first, cannot find anything unusual which would prevent them from closing the case and filing it away. And then he re-interviews Manuela's friends, including the beautiful Caterina and finds himself becoming deeply involved, in more ways than one"
This is a thoughtful book, not full of thrills and spills so if you are looking for a tense thriller, you will not find it here. What you will find is an immaculately written book full of elegant prose (my congratulations to the translator Antony Shugaar though I feel he could not go wrong with this author's writing) which was such a pleasure to read. There is an ease and a style to good writing - difficult to explain what it is, you just know when you come across it.
I was not bowled over by it but thought it was well written and translated and I decided to keep a weather eye out for the other three books by this author. Was in the library a couple of weeks ago, being Economic Random in keeping with my earlier post on same, and came out with a heap of books. Then I remembered this author so nipped back to see if there were any on the shelves and struck lucky as all three were in.
So I did my usual and sat down and read them one after the other and have now decided that they are brilliant and excellent and now I have to wait and bide in patience until the author writes the next one.
The one that really stood out and made me realise that here was a bloody good writer was Involuntary Witness. Guido Guerrieri takes on the defence of a Sengalese peddler accused of the murder of a nine year old boy. Keen to find a culprit as soon as possible Abdou Thiem is arrested and charged with the crime. All the odds and evidence are stacked against him and yet, Guerrieri believes tht he is innocent and agrees to defend him. HIs client is alone and abandoned in a hostile country, suffers in jail and tries to kill himself
"He made no answer, nor did he look at me. He closed his mouth and set his jaw. After two attempts he managed to swallow and then, like a scene in slow motion, in the inner corner of his left eye I saw a tear - one only - forming, growing, detaching itself and coursing slowly all the way down his cheek, until it vanished at the edge of his jaw. I too had trouble swallowing"
What seems to prove the case against Abdou is his identification by the owner of a bar who saw him gong back to the beach at the time the boy vanished. The bar owner has complained to the police about the black peddlers who throng round his bar and cause him problems "they hang outside the bar, they interfere"
The witness (Renna) is unable to pick the defendant out of a series of photos Guerreri has shown him even though he is pictured in two of them. Guerreri has to base his case on this 'involuntary witness' involuntary in that he is not telling a lie, he is not perjuring himself because he is sure he saw Abdou on the day in question. He decides to base his defence and his summing up on this fact.
"A lie is an assertion made in the awareness that it is contrary to the truth and I am convinced that Signor Renna did not make assertions in the awareness that they were contrary to the truth. In saying that he saw Abdou Thiam pass his bar on that afternoon, at just that time, he thinks he is telling the truth. And, in fact, he would have no reason to bering false accusations against the defendant"
The summing up and plea to the jury covers 24 pages in the book. Twenty four pages of clear, lucid, pointed and reasoned argument, in a prose style of elegance and clarity. I was totally mesmerised when reading this and if the phone had rung or somebody had knocked on the door and interrupted me I would have been furious. It is wonderful writing and, of course, wonderful translation by Patrick Creagh. The ins and outs, the arguments, the explanations, the uses of references to 'truth and verisimilitude which cover these pages are quite brilliantly done and I was just lost in admiration by the time I came to the end of this chapter. Of course, Gianrico Carofiglio is a lawyer himself, or was, and all I can say is that if he was a defender half as good as his literary creation, then he must have been pretty good indeed.
I found Guerreri a character not dissimilar to Donna Leon's Venetian hero Brunetti, in that he is essentially a good man struggling in a world which doesn't seem to appreciate such a quality. He is thoughtful and deep thinking and, at the same time, vulnerable hiding his inner fears and insecurities.
As I said I had enjoyed my first read of this author but was not bowled over, however after reading Involuntary Witness, I am - out of the four this is the best.
"The judge asked Abdou if he wished to make a concluding statement before the court retired ....the murmur died and there were a few seconds of silence. Abdou's voice was quiet and firm 'I want to say one thing. I want to thank my lawyer because he has believed I am innocent. I want to tell him de did right, because it is true"