Year 3 / Book 32: Involuntary Witness

32) Involuntary Witness by Gianrico Carofiglio

Generally, whenever we travel to a particular place, I like to try and read a novel that is set in and around there. This killed two birds with one stone, as Carofiglio had been on my radar for a while – and this legal / crime thriller is set in Puglia where we have come for a break. Thus it was that, while chilling in a bar in Monopoli, I find myself reading about a child being kidnapped, killed and thrown down a well just down the road near Polignano a Mare….

Carofiglio used to be a lawyer in real life, and one that took on some pretty full on organised criminals as well. And that feeds into what feels like a very real portrait of his protagonist, Guido Guerreri, and the city (Bari) he works in. It’s as much a novel about Guerreri and his life (the first section, indeed, is all about him and has nothing related to the crime) and the place he works in, as it is about a specific crime. For me, this worked excellently: I loved Guerreri, who is laconic, temperamental, bad in the mornings, loves a coffee, cynical but a softer heart beneath the hardness.

The crime itself allows Carofiglio to paint a picture of the darker underside of southern Italy: the housing blocks outside Bari, the growing immigrant population, and the similarly growing racism (one of the witnesses uses the ‘n’ word in the courtroom to describe the main suspect) – and sadly, although this book was originally written in 2002, that is ever more relevant in Italy today as the far right becomes stronger.

It’s an atmospheric and believable read, with only the very lawyerly closing speech stretching patience and credence a little. But otherwise, I thoroughly recommend, and I’m looking forward to reading the next few in the series in due course.

Score: 7.5/10

BUY IT NOW: Involuntary Witness (Guido Guerrieri Book 1)

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