Sunday, February 19, 2012

Reasonable Doubts, by Gianrico Carofiglio

Bitter Lemon Press, 2007
originally published as Ragionevoli dubbi, 2006
translated by Howard Curtis
249 pp
(trade paper ed.)

Carofiglio just keeps getting better, as Reasonable Doubts, book number three in this series,  proves.   While this book certainly has the makings of a good mystery contained within the story, Carofiglio continues his tradition of giving his character top billing rather than the crime.  The focus on the internal  life of Guido Guerrieri is a hallmark of all of the books in this series, but there is also enough tension rising external to Guerrieri's thoughts so that everything comes together to make an interesting and compelling story.  Yet, as is the case in all three books so far, when all is said and done, it is the character of Guerrieri himself that is the draw.

The novel opens with the case of Fabio Paolicelli, convicted some time back for crossing the border with 40 kilos of cocaine hidden within the body of the car, now in prison after having signed a confession of guilt.  Now he wants to appeal his conviction, and after hearing other convicts in prison discussing which defense lawyers are the worst and the best, Paolicelli decides it's got to be Guido Guerrieri.   As it just so happens, Guerrieri is already familiar with Paolicelli -- when Guido was just a boy, Fabio and his group of thugs accosted him, ordering him to remove his coat, beating him up when he wouldn't.  The whole episode left him humiliated, and he vowed to get back at Paolicelli some day.  Now Paolicelli needs his help, and Guerrieri is ready to tell him he can't take the case, but then  he meets Paolicelli's gorgeous half-Japanese wife Natsu Kawabata.  To be fair to Guerrieri, there are also some  facts about Paolicelli's case that bother him, especially Fabio's first attorney, Corrado Macri, whom Natsu was persuaded to hire by a total stranger.  While trying to lay the scene for setting up reasonable doubts regarding Paolicelli's case, Guerrieri is also dwelling on the ones in his own life.

This time around there is a bit more of a mystery component than in the previous two, although there are some loose ends left by the end of the book.  If this were just another novel of crime fiction, a reader might be a tad upset, but Carofiglio's energy is mainly (and wisely) directed toward character, followed by the legal system in Italy, and the ins and outs of the courtroom trial. 

I totally recommend the entire series, starting with Involuntary Witness.  If you were to come into the life of Guido Guerrieri having only read this book, you've really missed out on watching his character develop, and that would be a shame. Not only might you be a bit lost, but you would not have had the pleasure of watching Carofiglio's writing get better and better over time. And that would be a crime!

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