Overview from www.bn.com: The electrifying best-selling crime thriller from Italy, available for the first time in English. An instant sensation and number-one best seller since its publication, Temporary Perfections is the fourth crime novel by former Italian prosecutor Gianrico Carofiglio to feature Guido Guerrieri. A lawyer practicing in Bari, in southwest Italy, Guido Guerrieri is hired by an old colleague to work a missing-persons case that the police have failed to solve. Manuela Ferraro disappeared six months ago after spending a September weekend at a beach resort; as Guerrieri digs deep into her life and activities, he stumbles into a sinister drug ring and the real truth about why Ferraro vanished.
Simultaneously thoughtful and suspenseful, this is crime fiction at its best.
The first time I heard of this author I was really excited. “He could be the John Grisham of Italy,” I thought. The book was Involuntary Witness and it was a good one. This guy is not necessarily a John Grisham but that is not a bad thing.
His books are legal thrillers primarily and they both involve lawyer protagonists but that is where the similarities end. Gianrico Carofiglio has given us a protagonist in Guido Guerrieri who is slightly more vulnerable. Also Guido freely shares his inner dialogue with us. In Temporary Perfections this includes his conversations with one “Mister Bag” who is a leftover relic from his boxing days. (I am hoping you can figure out what Mister Bag is since I can’t remember the official name of those things or if they even have a name.)
Guido’s new assignment is only part of the story in this book. The other half of the plot follows his inner turmoil as he faces as he remembers certain parts of his past and as he tries to convince himself that he is not a dirty old man. Unfortunately his encounters with a certain young girl named Caterina who is a friend of the girl who disappeared make it hard for him to contain his dirty old man impulses.
Perhaps he is also hoping that the memories that he has conjured up of when he was Caterina’s age will remind him of the age difference. He tries so hard to do the right thing.
When Caterina seems to have deliberately arranged for him to interview a reluctant witness in Rome who happens to be her friend, Guido is at first relieved. Then he finds out that Caterina has made an appointment with the girl for the afternoon, meaning that he will have to stay overnight with Caterina, he immediately sets out to make sure that they will have separate hotel rooms.
I like Guido and I think that goes a long way in making me like the book. The plots in thrillers are more or less the same, formulaic even, so a good protagonist makes all the difference. Notice I didn’t say a good person, for Guido is not really a good person. When you get right down to it, he is a lonely middle-aged man who finds out that he actually does feel something rather than nothing. He gets a little carried away with this feeling and makes mistakes to be sure but he seems human and I could relate to him on a certain level, though not the dirty old man part so much.
The other thing I appreciated about this novel was the insights into the Italian legal system which I have always been curious about. In some ways it is different from the system we have here in the USA but in at least one of Guido’s minor case’s involving a depressed man, it seems to be fairer at times too.
The translator also seems to have done a good job too. He does a good job explaining just enough of the difference between the Italian pronouns tu and Lei so that the readers understand what Guido is talking about without beating over the head with Italian grammar. This will probably serve well for the average English-speaking reader who doesn’t speak Italian.
There are one or two things I didn’t like about it. Sometimes Guido seems a little too cavalier about the crimes that he has helped his clients get away with. Though to be fair he sometimes ends up hoping that he won’t get his client off as well. Also there were a few too many mentions of the f-word but not so much that I stopped reading. All in all, it still was a darn good story. I liked it a lot. If you like legal thrillers, I think you will too.
Contains: foul language, some sexual references, and drug use.
Below is an interview with the author about this novel.