Into his professional life comes an African lady, Abajaje Deheba, who asks him to defend her friend, a Senegalese peddler, Abdou Thiam, who has been charged with murdering a 9 year old boy, Francesco Rubino known as Ciccio, near Bari, Italy. Previous counsel has made a perfunctory effort at defence and she is searching for another defence lawyer. Guido meets with Abdou and decides to review the evidence.
Guido sees the prosecutor and reads the assembled evidence. It appears Italian police reports are as ritualistic and laden with jargon as Canadian reports. The reports read authentically though I found they slowed the book by their length. I would have preferred excerpts and then summaries.
After completing his review Guido decides to take on the defence though there is little money available to pay him and Guido puts the chances of success at 5 – 10%..
There is heavy pressure on Guido and Abdou to accept the shortened procedure and accept a plea deal rather than proceed to trial and risk a life sentence. Abdou declines and the charges proceed to trial.
Guido, rousing himself from his torpor, prepares for the trial carefully weighing and assessing the evidence.
His professional recovery is ahead of his personal life especially in relationships.
The trial is the best part of the book. Unfamiliar with Italian court procedure I found it interesting to see the cut and thrust of cross-examination and argument. It was closer to a Canadian trial than I had expected.
Guido is a skilled observer of human nature:
“A person’s laugh is important because you can’t cheat. To know if someone is genuine or fake, the only sure way is to watch – and listen to – his laugh. People who are really worthwhile are the ones who know how to laugh.”
In the trial Guido skillfully defends his foreign client. It is obvious Italian society looks far down upon the African immigrants trying to make a better life in Italy.
I was initially irritated over Guido’s attitude towards his clients. He speaks of discomfort in representing low lifes and other forms of criminal. Do not become a defence counsel if you only want to represent people such as Abdou. As the book continued I thought better of Guido as a defence lawyer.
It was not a major problem but I did not find the evidence against Abdou as overwhelming as presented in the book. To have a real discussion in a review would be to give away too much of the book. If a reader of the blog wants further thoughts on the issue they can email me. It is a challenge for writers of legal mysteries to have enough evidence to make the charges credible but not so strong as to make an acquittal incredible. Scott Turow is one of the best at striking that balance.
I am going to look for the next in the series. I want to see how Guido progresses as a lawyer and Carofiglio, described as an anti-Mafi judge in every description of him, as a writer. (Apr. 8/12)