• Publication date: 4 Sep 2018
• Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press
• Language: English
• ASIN: B0787JXPTS
Source: ARC copy courtesy of Anne Cater – thank you
Plus my own kindle copy bought to read out and about
The summer of 1992 had been exceptionally cold in southern Italy. But that’s not the reason why it is still remembered. On May 23, 1992, a roadside explosion killed the Palermo judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife and three police officers. A few weeks later judge Paolo Borsellino and five police officers were killed in the center of Palermo. These anti-mafia judges became heroes but the violence spread to the region of Bari in Puglia, where we meet a new, memorable character, Maresciallo Pietro Fenoglio, an officer of the Italian Carabinieri. Fenoglio, recently abandoned by his wife, must simultaneously deal with his personal crisis and the new gang wars raging around Bari. The police are stymied until a gang member, accused of killing a child, decides to collaborate, revealing the inner workings and the rules governing organised crime in the area. The story is narrated through the actual testimony of the informant, a trope reminiscent of verbatim theatre which Carofiglio, an ex-anti-mafia judge himself, uses to great effect. The gangs are stopped but the mystery of the boy’s murder must still be solved, leading Fenoglio into a world of deep moral ambiguity, where the prosecutors are hard to distinguish from the prosecuted.
Completely out of my comfort zone reading this one but what a fascinating read it was.
We meet Marescialio Pietro Fenoglio, a marshal in the carabinieri, the police force in Italy, who is based in the Bari region of Puglia. He’s an enigmatic character who studied literature at university but then dropped out of university and eventually joined the Italian police force. He’s an intelligent man of culture who appreciates the arts, Classical music and the finer things in life. He’s a philosopher and some of his interesting theories about life are thought provoking and frankly often profound! He didn’t by any means always despise the criminals he investigated
But there were also – he had met lots of them – intelligent drug dealers, likeable robbers, murderers capable of unexpected and selfless gestures of humanity. They complicated things, made classifications less simple.
A man of principles and a straight policeman who does everything by the book because for him there is no other way. His wife Serena has left him and his work occupies his almost entire life it seems, especially when there is a war breaking out between factions of a local Mafia gang and the child of the Godfather Grimaldi is missing in an apparent kidnapping.
When a senior member of the gang Lopez decides to sing like a canary and become a carabinieri snitch in an effort to save his own skin when he is suspected by Grimaldi of involvement in the child kidnapping Fenoglio assists the local prosecutor D’Angelo in interviewing Lopez and collating his testimony that involves several gruesome murders, an arms cache and the purchasing of a large amount of cocaine. All fascinating stuff and especially when Lopez reveals details of the structure and rituals of the local mafioso.
Fenoglio, although realising how violent the man is has a fascination for how the son of quite well off parents and from a good background has turned to the savage life of crime. Lopez whose idealistic view of his own morals in that he would murder without conscience but would draw the line at hurting animals, women or children categorically denies involvement in the child abduction and Fenoglio investigates other possibilities of exactly who the perpetrators were.
Although this novel is a work of fiction, it led me to researching and reading about the background story to the actual events of The Cold Summer leading up to May 23, 1992 explosion and a few weeks later the murder of the judge Paolo Borsellino. Given the background of the author, it’s clear that he has an enormous amount of inside knowledge of the inner workings of the Italian justice system and the mafia organisations themselves.
From the sunny vistas of the cafe bars and outdoor restaurants of Bari we’re taken back to the cloistered atmosphere of a police interview room being a party to a litany of confessions that are revealing and horrific in detail and bring us right into the dark hearts and minds of Mafia gang members.
Absolutely riveting, jaw dropping stuff and a totally fascinating read. I’ve discovered that the author is a prolific writer and I must read more books written by him
Gianrico Carofiglio is one of Italy’s bestselling authors. He was previously a member of the Italian Senate and before that, an anti-Mafia prosecutor in Bari, a port on the coast of Puglia. He has been involved with trials concerning corruption, organised crime and the traffic in human beings. He has written a number of highly acclaimed crime novels and other literary fiction.
With many thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour