Friday, November 10, 2006


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


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good review, Uriah/Norm, I think you've summed up the book very well. I agree the ending is somewhat prefunctory, this seems to me a hallmark of what might loosely be called crime fiction. Either the ending is almost academic (eg Henning Mankell and other scandinavian noir, the Ruth Rendell I've just read, "End in Tears") or the ending tries to achieve an incredibly dramatic climax or twist, tying up all loose ends, etc, and falls flat on its face. I usually find the journey of the book itself more satisfying than the ending.

Malcolm, my husband, has just started reading this book on my recommendation so I hope he likes it....not usually a genre he reads though he does love Italy and spends quite a bit of time either there or somewhere in the world with his Italian collaborators. (They are scientists.)

12:36 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Maxine, I agree this book is all about the journey and the atmosphere, as are the Mankells I have read. I have got into the sequel, and can really relate to the character of Guido, except for the smoking.

Malcolm and his Italian collaborators sounds like a title for a crime novel!


1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crikey, yes, you are right, no wonder they have such trouble getting through US customs with all their equipment! (When they are going to use the synchrotron accelerator at Argonne, Chicago, that is --- Chicago, that well-known seat of mobster rule!)

1:46 PM  

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