Involuntary Witness is the debut novel of Gianrico Carofiglio, an anti-Mafia judge in the southern Italian port city of Bari.
The book, another from the clever publishers at Bitter Lemon Press, has won a number of literary awards such as the Marisa Rusconi and the Rhegium Julii prizes, and is the basis of a television series in Italy.
Guido Guerrieri, a 38 year old lawyer recently seperated from his wife and in the midst of a nervous breakdown is asked to defend Abdou Thiam, a Senegalese peddler, on the charge of murdering a 9 year old boy.
The book tells the powerful story of Guido's struggle both to straighten out his own life, and also to prevent Abdou being sent to prison for life.
It is a unusual book for a crime novel, because there is only a very superficial attempt to investigate the crime. While called a "powerful attack on racism" on the back cover it seems equally to be an indictment of the Italian judicial system.
The key to the book is the character of Guido, as someone who is both believable and extremely likeable. The first person narrative format is not my favourite but in this case you are immediately drawn in to Guido's world. You become really involved in his hopes for a future, while he changes from hard cynical loser into a caring human being.
I could identify easily with someone whose life changed so dramatically at 38, and there is the genesis of a romance in the book.
Guido is a lawyer who finds he has a heart after all.
This is a very intelligent literary novel, full of humour, and although I was slightly disappointed by the ending I jumped right into the sequel "A Walk In The Dark".
"What the caterpillar thinks is the end of the world, the rest of the world calls a butterfly." Lao-tzu, The Way of Virtue