Monday, March 31

Involuntary Witness – Gianrico Carofiglio

Guido Guerrieri has come through the worst experience of his life – the end of his marriage – and is still recovering. He’s sleep-walking though his life, starting to have panic attacks, and can’t concentrate on his clients – not a good thing when you’re a defence counsel.
When Abajaje Deheba, wife of a Senegalese teacher working as a knock-off handbag seller, comes to him, Guerrieri is shaky but holding it together. Abdou Thiam has been charged with the assault and murder of a nine-year-old boy, and is awaiting trial. They can’t afford much, and mounting a real defence will be expensive, but Guerrieri has a strong feeling that Thiam is innocent.
This sparkling novel blends a legal thriller with the gentle story of a man rediscovering himself and his place in the world. At the same time Carofiglio give the reader a strong sense of place – the character and beauty of Italy but also the deep-seated anti-European biases and corrupt infrastructure. There are strong American elements that gave me a little jolt every time (like lyrics from Bruce Springsteen and Dave Gray, references to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Catcher in the Rye) and made me wonder if they’d been changed from the original to convey a familiar and similar flavour of the Italian originals, or if the US has really reached that far into the psyche of another, non-English speaking, nation.
But this was the only thing that at all brought me out of the novel. While reading Involuntary Witness I didn’t feel gripped, in the more traditional way characteristic of thrillers, but instead calmed and intrigued. I found myself reading just a few more pages, just a few more, until the whole thing was gone. It’s evocating, involving, sometimes tranquil, and hopeful, and I look forward to reading the next outing of Avvocato. - Alex

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