"Guido, how well you look! Have you been going to the gym over the winter? Are you alone or with a girlfriend?" Here she winked, as if to say: You can tell me all right, I'll confine myself to putting a notice in the paper and pasting up a few hundred posters around the town.
"Yes, you bitch, I'm alone and I want to stay that way. However, since you've turned up to get on my tits I've got something to say to you, so lend an ear. Your dinners were always a torture and, most of all, the food was vomit-worthy. I know they all said you were a great cook, but that will always remain a mystery to me. Your husband is, if possible, worse than you are. And your friends are, if possible, worse than him. One time they even suggested I join the Rotary Club. I want to tell you that I'm a Communist. That at so many dinners for so many years you were entertaining a Communist. Got that?"
These and other things I would have liked to say. But obviously I replied with nauseating courtesy.
Involuntary Witness, by Gianrico Carofiglio, was the perfect palate cleanser of a book for me last week — matters of truth and justice, characters of substance, yet light of touch.
Guido Guerrieri, defense counsel and narrator of the story, is now inextricably intertwined with the impression of the author I developed when I saw him in person. And that's not a bad thing. In fact it makes for a charming read.
Having never read a John Grisham novel, I do not what the standard is for "courtroom drama" or "legal thriller." This book is not a criminal investigation, and the truth about the crime is never fully resolved. This novel has courtroom scenes and some legal minutiae, but this aspect to me feels incidental. I almost care less about the outcome of the case than I do about how Guido gets on with his day to day, how he comes to grips with being separated, how his interior monologue unfolds.
(In this regard it reminds me a little of Sergio De La Pava's A Naked Singularity and it is a legal thriller to a similar extent — all that life getting in the way of the story. The plot, if one can so call the main legal proceeding, is interrupted by neighbours, pop music, and philosophical meanderings.)
I'm quite certain I'll be picking up another Carofiglio, but it won't be for the puzzle to solve, or the suspense of the proceedings, or throwing myself in with the defendant's lot. It'll be for Guido alone.