Gianrico Carofiglio's second novel, A Walk in the Dark, is even better than his excellent debut, Involuntary Witness. Although translated with more assurance than Witness (this time by Howard Curtis), the author has matured, adding depth to the characters who appeared in the previous novel and introducing new ones who are instantly real. The confident dovetailing of back-story and character development as the plot unfolds is unfaltering.
Against the background of a legal case -- this time Guido Guerrieri is prosecuting a well-connected man for abusing his girlfriend -- the book is a perfect jewel. The themes are addiction -- to alcohol, cigarettes, fear or to a behaviour pattern -- and coping with the premature loss of a relationship -- by illness, death or cruelty. The context is corruption. I have some personal knowledge of the baroque and sinister lunacies of the Italian legal system, obviously not by any means as extensive as Carofiglio's (he used to be a judge), but enough to know that his accounts of the machinations are realistic.
The result is a powerful, insightful and compelling account of a tragedy -- or two or three.
The second book to feature defence lawyer Guido Guerrieri is as good, if not better than the debut novel, 'Involuntary Witness' in the sense that Guido has become a more rounded character, resulting in a more determined approach to both his life and his cases. Having previously read book 4, we know that he is likely to succomb just as he does in this book when his stance on quitting smoking goes up in er, smoke.
As with book 1 and, I guess, the others, this is more a slice of Italian life in Bari. Those wanting a sure fire thriller will be disappointed. Those looking for a well balanced story based on the author's previous (maybe current) day job will relish the veracity of the court room scenes coupled with the general day to day social activities in Guido's life, making this an excellent read.
It is, if anything, rather short, being only a couple of hundred pages so we soon reach the end, slightly disappointed that it has passed so quickly. Still, there's book 3 to follow when I find a copy.
The story has been outlined elsewhere, so, for me, the relevance of reading such a book as this is expressly to enjoy the warmth of the Bari lifestyle whilst not losing sight of the fact that an important socialite has beaten his partner, abusing her to the point of almost death and hopes, because of privilege and position, to get away with it. Thankfully, Guerrieri is made of sterner stuff, defending the woman before events take a nastier course.
You don't have to read book 1 in order to enjoy this one. It stands alone but any new reader will miss another Bari storyline which, in itself, makes for an interesting and enjoyable read.
This translated crime novel comes from slightly warmer shores than we're used to. We swap Scandinavia for Bari, a small town in Southern Italy. The climate is different, but the quality's the same.
Carofiglio is an anti-Mafia prosecutor, himself from Southern Italy. A Walk in the Dark, brought to us by the wonderful Bitter Lemon Press, is his second novel, and also the second to feature prosecutor Guido Gurrieri. It's a series that has won Carofiglio awards and fame in his native country, and has become the basis of a sucessful television series, too.
When Guido agrees to represent Martina, a young woman from a refuge centre who accuses her husband of brutal violence against her, he knows that the case could bring his career to a premature end. For the husband in question is the son of a powerful, influential local judge. No witnesses will testify in her favour, one lawyer after another refuses to represent her, and many of his friends tell Guido how hopeless the case is, how foolish he for taking it. But he cannot resists a hopeless, and just, cause.
A Walk in the Dark is quite a short book, clocking in at just over 200 paperback pages. And it may be short, but its brevity and parsimony lend it both power and pace. Carofiglio has a great ability to tell us all we need to know and nothing more in order to convey his characters, his plot, and the legal rings likeable, endearing Gurrieri must navigate through, which he surely has great knowledge of (one would hope so, in any case!) He has a great writer's way with boiling the complex down to the simple (Grisham's main virtue), and of illustrating characters just so.
The book is both a legal thriller and a very human drama, at times very moving (especially towards the end). He handles his plot so well, and moves it along expertly, once turning the book completely upside down with an unexpected twist. It's a book of excellent balance: plot and character, personal and professional (it's more than just a legal thriller, but a book about Gurrieri, and morality), seriousness and wit. Carofiglio knows well where the heartstrings are, and often plucks them with a bitter stroke. It's richly bound in its Italian setting, too, which is nice to see. One of the joys of this new wave of crime fiction is the little windows into a different place, a different culture, and this book provides that as well if not better than most.
This is an admirable novel, just as good as Carofiglio's first. Crime fiction readers with an interest in the deeper levels the genre can plumb, as well as in being richly entertained, would do well to look here.
"A Walk in the Dark" is a taut, well-constructed crime story, written by a former Italian prosecutor, that opens a window on the considerable problems in the Italian legal and juridical systems. This is a common theme in Italian crime writing, but "A Walk..." has the feel of an original. The book is set in the southern Italian port city of Bari and features protagonist Guido Guerrieri, a principled and well-respected lawyer who is known to take on lost causes. Guerrieri has some major personal issues that are well-told parts of the story.
In "Walk in the Dark," Guerrieri represents a woman with a complaint against the son of a senior Bari judge. It's a case that is definitely not a career enhancing assignment and one that turns out to be dangerous as well.
While the book's plot is somewhat classic and not overly-ambitious, the great strength of the story is in the interaction between its characters, each one of which is well-developed and credible. There is some real challenge, as well as enjoyment, here for the reader. This is a book that transcends the mystery genre, approaching literature.
Author Gianrico Carofiglio's wonderful writing is well served by an excellent translation by Howard Curtis. Highly recommended.
on 7 October 2007
This time Guido defends a woman who has been seriously assaulted by her boyfriend, a man of some considerable influence.
The book is short, at just over 200 pages, and is not complex, despite being described as a legal thriller.
However, it is well-written, and well-translated, and it is impossible not to warm to Guido, despite his many flaws. The book is written in the first person so the reader lives with all of Guido's ups and downs, as well as his wondrous thoughts.
I don't think this book is as strong as `Reasonable Doubts' (the next novel in the series of 3 thus far), but it was again an immense pleasure to read. 9/10
on 15 December 2015
Really enjoyed his first novel and I think this one might be slightly better. It has a more involved plotline, well-developed new and existing characters, and an underlying sense of injustice and impossible resolution that drives the story along. ……. And it features a nun with a penchant for the martial arts!
The novel is short but pacey. I was really rooting for the character Martina and found Sister Claudia original and believable. As with his first novel, there is a crime but the storytelling around human frailties and strengths is what appeals to me about Carolfiglio’s novels.
The writing style is simple and the language used won’t win any literary awards and maybe its simplicity won’t appeal to many readers but I liked it.
on 25 February 2013
Good, straightforward storytelling with a nicely drawn central character - a slightly shopworn lawyer whose unexciting private life pushes him into taking credible risks with the law he seeks to uphold.
on 4 June 2010
Maybe it loses a little something in translation but........although the crimes under prosecution include child abuse, paedophilia, and spousal abuse, I wasn't terrifically surprised by the conclusion or even particularly shocked by the crimes themselves. Quite liked the concept of a vicious martial arts nun, though; that really is different.
on 7 November 2013
At first I found this author's books difficult to get into. I persevered and love his books. I can't wait to read his next one
on 9 June 2010
This is just another OK Italian thriller. In the last few years I have seen in bookshops - and, in some cases, read - many similar thrillers by Italian authors. They all are a bit the same, especially those from authors from Southern Italy. They all try to picture their own cities as exotic (see for example the attempt by Carofiglio to depict Bari as a sophisticated city with a thriving cultural life), but, at least in the eyes of us Italians, such attempts appear a bit pathetic, as we know that most places in Southern Italy are just mafia-plagued and provincial. Another characteristic of this new wage of Italian thriller authors is that they like themselves a great deal. In fact, their wanna-be introspection ends up appearing just like self-celebration, and, unfortunately, the main character of this book is not immune from this. Another annoying aspect is the author's inclination to throw about subplots that the reader expect to be eventually connected to the main story, but...they just don't (for example the chapter about the suicide of the protagonist's old and long lost friend Emilio). Don't get me wrong, I spent a pleasant evening reading this book (which is very short), but the moment I finished it and put it on the shelf I was already sure that I would not have given it a thought again.