This Italian bestseller is the third in Carofiglio's series of crime/legal thrillers featuring lawyer Guido Guerrieri. The simple story is set in the somewhat grim eastern port of Bari (yes, I've been there and don't care to return), where the 40ish private attorney plies his trade while fending off a midlife crisis. One day, not long after being dumped by his girlfriend, he is retained by a convicted drug smuggler to represent him in his appeal case. Coming back from a vacation in Montenegro, the man's car was searched, and 40 kilos of cocaine was found, leading to a sixteen year sentence. However, he claims to have confessed only in order to keep his half-Japanese wife out of jail, and disavows any prior knowledge of the drugs.
The story then unfolds relatively straightforwardly, as Guerrieri examines the details of the original case and does a little digging with the unofficial help of a few old acquaintances. As in many European crime novels, the hero/protagonist is somewhat of a loner, and spends a good portion of the book drifting around the streets of the city (by bike!) ruminating on his empty life, eating, and drinking. Adding to Guerrieri's woes is his self-loathing when he falls all too easily into bed with his client's exotically beautiful wife. A further complication is the lawyer's secret past with his client -- as a teen, the client was a fascist thug who was part of a gang who assaulted Guerrieri, an event the client doesn't appear to recall. These latter two elements don't add a great deal to the story, especially the teenage connection, which leads nowhere and ultimately serves little purpose. Yet despite the relatively unoriginal plotline, there's a certain tone to the story that makes it quite compelling. Definitely not a great book, but good enough to make me want to go back and read Guerrieri's earlier cases (Involuntary Witness, A Walk in the Dark).