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  • Reviews for Temporary Perfections by Gianrico Carofiglio
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Reviews for Temporary Perfections by Gianrico Carofiglio
'At first counsel for the defence Guido Guerrieri had been reluctant to take the case. He had been approached by an old legal friend to investigate the disappearance of the daughter of a wealthy couple living in the Southern Italian city of Bari called Manuela. New evidence was needed urgently or the case would be closed by the Carabinieri. Arguing that he is a lawyer and not an investigator Guerrieri is finally persuaded by the obvious grief that the couple are suffering. Manuela was last seen taking a train from the town of Ostuni after spending the weekend with druggy university friends in a trulli house nearby. Guerrieri re-interviews her best friend Caterina whose open flirtation with him clouds his perception of the case. Whilst pondering the information to hand Guerrieri spends lonely nights wandering the streets of Bari and visiting a quirky gay bar called the Chelsea Hotel No. 2 owned by a former client and ex-prostitute. It is during his drinking sessions at the bar that the humorously existential lawyer finds inspiration in solving the disappearance of Manuela.
Characters that combine sharp legal savvy with a love of the songs of Leonard Cohen are not frequently found in crime fiction and that makes Gianrico Carofiglio's creation all the more welcome. Atmospheric and evocative in his descriptions of the sun-baked city and landscapes that his character inhabits in the Puglia region, Carofiglio paints an intriguing picture of a lesser known part of Italy. Gianrico Carofiglio was an anti-mafia prosecutor in Bari and is now a member of the Italian senate.
His real life experience greatly aids the quality of his writing and gives it a convincing and authentic quality. This is the fourth in the Guido Guerrieri series and has topped the bestseller lists in Italy. Tough and thoughtful in equal parts this slice of Italian noir offers a welcome alternative to an excess of Americana and mockney gangland tales. Temporary Perfections is an astutely told crime story from off the beaten track.'

- Crime Time
'For the first time in the Guido Guerrieri series, the Italian Defence Counsel acts as a detective rather than legal eagle, trying where the police have failed to discover what happened to a missing student. Was she kidnapped, is she dead, or has she merely disappeared? Where most fictional detectives find their path blocked by half the characters they meet, Guerrieri finds his apparently clear, with help offered both by the police and by the missing girl's friends - but unfortunately, that path appears to lead nowhere. Or does it? One of these helpful characters presumably knows more than they have told. Might that be one of the cops, one of her friends, a drug-dealing ex-boyfriend - and how should the unattached Guerrieri respond to the potentially romantic approaches from, on the one hand, an ex-client and, on the other, a glamorous witness half his age? Carofiglio, as ever, produces an elegant, informative, if at times too discursive tale, like a leisurely Italian dinner that unwinds gently through the evening to leave a pleasing aftertaste on the palate.' - Crime Time
'Temporary Perfections is the fourth book by Gianrico Carofiglio to be published in the UK. His regular sleuth Guido Guerrieri seeks evidence to persuade the Bari police to reopen their investigation into the disappearance of a poor little rich girl. As usual it is difficult to tell the good guys from the bad in Italy. - Sunday Telegraph
'Carofiglio's legal thrillers (this is the fourth), stand out for me as being among the very best of the slew of European crime books to hit our shelves, which perhaps isn't surprising when one learns the author was an anti-Mafia prosecutor before becoming a member of the Italian Senate. Counsel for the defence Guido Guerrieri is a great character who fights his loneliness at night (he has serial woman trouble) by talking to his punchbag and walking the streets of Bari in search of congenial bars. By day, however, he is a fiercely conscientious and upright lawyer who often defends people others think of as indefensible and is quick to stamp on the corruption that is widespread in his country. Here, he is approached by a friend who asks him to persuade the police to re-open a cold case - that of a missing student, Manuela, the daughter of a rich couple in Bari. When Guido starts to talk to Manuela's friends, he can't find anything out of the ordinary, until one of them, Caterina, an unnervingly pretty girl, makes a great play for him and becomes a little too close for comfort. Anyone new to this series should start with Involuntary Witness - one of my favourite crime novels.' - Daily Mail
'To paraphrase an old Mae West tune we don't hear enough anymore, I like a mystery writer who takes his time. Though Kingsley Amis once insisted that he wanted to read only books that began "A shot rang out!, " the renowned literary Brit might have made an exception for Gianrico Carofiglio. The author of the Guido Guerrieri legal thrillers - "Temporary Perfections " is the fourth - is as exacting, contemplative and sometimes downright poky as any crime writer I can think of. Yet when the Italian defense lawyer isn't doing something, he is thinking, and what goes on in his doubt-stuffed head is nearly always captivating. Forty-five and divorced, the one-time amateur boxer has a family consisting of his small law firm plus a former prostitute named Nadia, who runs a gay bar called the Chelsea Hotel. While Carofiglio's narrative is never in any rush, he has a deft way of introducing characters with whip-quick descriptions. Consuelo, a lawyer on Guerrieri's staff who was adopted as a child from Peru, has "a dark, chubby face, with cheeks that at first sight give her a faintly comical appearance. " Though when her "dark eyes stop smiling, they transmit a very straightforward message: The only way to get me to stop fighting is to kill me. " Nadia's German business partner, Hans, "looks like a former shot-putter who quit training and took up drinking beer instead. " The grief-ravaged father of a vibrant young woman who has vanished wears an expression that "looked like a collapsing dam. "
It's the six-month-old disappearance of a young woman named Manuela Ferraro that Guerrieri agrees to investigate for a lawyer friend (the police have long since lost interest in the case), even though Guerrieri fears that he will be reduced to using investigative techniques he picked up from American crime novels. His insecurity is one of his most endearing qualities, along with his frequently challenged moral conscience and his sweaty ambivalence around seductive women. An alluring pal of the missing woman plays entertaining sexual games with Guerrieri for her own purposes, and he uses her right back, however guiltily.The solution to the crime that Guerrieri eventually uncovers isn't remarkable; it involves coke-dealing and addiction, and it's all sadly familiar. His circuitous route to the chilling denouement is full of surprises, though, including an encounter with Nadia's big black dog, which has only one ear. You might think when you read it that this scene is included as a mere divertissement, until Guerrieri meets a similar dog with two ears and is reminded of the dog in a Sherlock Holmes story that didn't bark, and suddenly all the pieces surrounding the Ferraro disappearance drop into place.
It's amazing that Guerrieri gets anything done, for his unmoored mind is constantly meandering through his past as a student, lawyer, lover and reader. In the end, nearly all of these detours figure in the unfolding of the case, and once you realize what Carofiglio is up to, it's fun to guess what the point of any given apparent digression might be.Even the minor characters are given sharp emotional lives. There's a devastating scene in which Guerrieri follows the grief-stricken father of the missing woman through the streets of Bari. The old man, the lawyer realizes with a start, is heading out to meet the train his daughter had been scheduled to arrive on from Rome half a year earlier; he has probably been trudging to that station every day for six months.
Some of Guerrieri's most affecting exchanges are with Mister Bag, the battered punching bag from his boxing years. The lawyer still knocks it around nearly every day while he sorts out his thoughts and feelings in imaginary conversations. Mr. Bag is "the perfect therapist. . . . I feel a certain tenderness toward him, but without any sexual implications. " In some ways, Mister Bag is for the unlucky-in-love Guer¬rieri what Susan Silverman was for Robert B. Parker's Spenser, an emotionally reassuring companion and helpmate, with no legal commitment.' - Washington Post
'Until recently, the southern region of Apulia was often dismissed as the run-down heel of Italy, an undeveloped Spanish-Greek-Italian coastal crossroads of parched landscapes and poverty, its glorious food, wine and architecture known only to hardy adventurers. But under the leadership since 2005 of its charismatic, gay, Berlusconi-busting governor, Nichi Vendola, Apulia has emerged as an attractive, solar-energy-driven destination of choice for green businesses, music festivals and tourism. It even has its own Mafia, the Sacra Corona Unita - smaller than the organised crime outfits of its southern neighbours Sicily and Naples, but lethal nonetheless. And, for nearly a decade Apulia has had its own celebrity crime writer, Gianrico Carofiglio.
Carofiglio came to prominence in the 1990s for his work as an anti-Mafia judge in the regional capital, Bari. He was 40 years old when he invented his fictional alter ego as a distraction from the day job and to write himself out of a mid-life crisis. Although he chooses not to write directly about the Mafia, this lawyer-turned-courtroom-dramatist knows his criminals and the Italian legal system inside out. We still meet the big boys - the drug
dealers and child traffickers - but it is ordinary people and everyday misogyny, racism and fraud that Carofiglio exposes, as his hero Guido Guerrieri trawls through the bookshops and bars of Bari.
Today, Carofiglio is a bestseller and multiple prizewinner in Italy and, increasingly, across the world. Thanks to Bitter Lemon Press in the UK, we can now read all four of his legal thrillers in English. He has been compared with Raymond Chandler and John Grisham, which I imagine he is delighted about, as both he and his protagonist devour American literature.
Guerrieri, nicknamed "Gigi" by a girlfriend, is no swashbuckling Italian macho or passionate social campaigner. He doesn't live with his mother, or even like blood and violence. Rather, he is a lovable fortysomething, deeply neurotic, witty, honest and a brilliant lawyer, a stunning performer in the courtroom who wants nothing more than to enjoy women and Bruce Springsteen and to expose social injustice and corruption, quietly. He is also endearingly flawed: a procrastinator who would rather read novels than go the office, a failure at relationships, riddled with self-doubt, taking on seemingly unwinnable cases.
The narrative of Temporary Perfections centres not only on the hunt for a missing student named Manuela Ferraro and an investigation into illegal drugs, but also on Guerrieri's intense relationship with Manuela's best friend, Caterina. It also takes in his equally intense friendship with the former prostitute Nadia, with whom he discusses the genius of Charles Schulz and Clint Eastwood. Nadia, in what for southern Italy is a very 21st-century touch, runs a gay bar in Bari.
All this is written in the first person, in tight, conversational, American-style prose. The characters are rounded - they have parents, pasts and presents - though we see everything from the hero's perspective. All four Guerrieri novels are about character and psychology: his own and his insight into the minds of others.
And just when you think our hero is pontificating too much, the pace of Temporary Perfections quickens with a flash of inspiration and the whiff of a Sherlock Holmes story. The crime is "solved" at breathtaking speed and with a twist on "the dog that didn't bark". We are left with vivid pictures of Bari, as well as a deeper understanding of the Italian legal process and human nature in general.
Contemporary crime fiction is the most satisfying way to engage with the eternal mysteries of Italian society, politics and history. Sicily has the food-loving Inspector Salvo Montalbano. Then there is the erratic anti-hero Aurelio Zen, as well as Massimo Carlotto's ruthless Giorgio Pellegrini and Donna Leon's home-loving Guido Brunetti, both Venetians - distinctive individuals all, deeply rooted in their respective regional cultures. Each of these characters provides a guide to how Italians live outside Berlusconi-dominated Rome. They rarely succeed in driving out the Mafia, or even in solving crimes, but they do expose the criminals and the suffering they create.' - New Statesman

'Serving policemen often scoff at fictional detectives, who can be ignorant of certain technical aspects of the job and lack awareness of the sheer routine of much of it. It is not an accusation that could be leveled at Guido Guerrieri, the central figure in Gianrico Carofiglio's crime novels. Guerrieri is a defence lawyer, on the opposite side of the law from his creator who was a public prosecutor before being elected to the Italian Senate. Guerrieri is a skilled multi-tasker, and the novel resembles the diary of a busy professional man. While dealing with a case, he gets on with life, enjoying music and playing games such as challenging a friend to identify films most likely to cause the viewer to cry. He is required to mentor a young apprentice making her first court appearance, and if his core concern is the unexplained disappearance of a young woman, his thriving legal practice brings him into contact with an upper-class drug dealer, a former prostitute who now runs a gay bar, a corrupt building contractor facing his day in court, as well as a man accused of attempted mass murder because his failed suicide bid-through gas-might have caused a high-rise block to collapse. In his previous outings Guerrieri has furthered the interests of his clients with a display of forensic skills worthy of Perry mason. But his new case requires him to employ the investigative expertise of a Sherlock Holmes, and indeed it his recall of the celebrated case of the dog that failed to bark which enables him to crack the mystery. Manuela, a young student brought up in a well-to-do household in Bari and now commuting to university in Rome, has gone missing. The police make no headway and are on the point of closing the enquiry when Manuela's parents call in Guerrieri. Those he questions point him towards Manuela's cocaine-sniffing circle of friends. The most enigmatic and prominent of these is Caterina, troublingly pretty, sexually predatory but, he fears, too young for the middle-aged scrupulous lawyer. She may of course have an agenda of her own. The novel has a wider canvas than most novels of this type and the sprightly writing, deftly rendered by Antony Shugaar, as well as the twists and turns of the plot ensure that interest never flags.'

- Times Literary Supplement
'Bestselling Italian thriller in which Manuela has disappeared without trace and the police have closed their investigation, Counselor Guerrieri reluctantly takes on an unusual assignment: to seek new evidence.' - Western Morning News
'Along with elegant fashion and fine wine, Italy's best exports now include number one bestselling mystery writer Gianrico Carofiglio. In his new book Temporary Perfections he demonstrates his intimate knowledge of crime and punishment (he's a former prosecutor) while proving himself a masterful novelist.' - Gay Talese
'Guido Guerrieri has become one of crime fiction's most endearing characters. Neither cop nor private eye, the defence advocate from Bari with the eccentric chaotic life keep straying reluctantly into sleuthing. In Temporary Perfections, his fourth appearance, Guerrieri is asked by a distraught couple to study the police files on the unsolved disappearance of their 22-year-old daughter. His inquiries lead him nervously into a youthful world of drugs and parties, but the main reason to read Carofiglio(a former anti-Mafia judge, now in the Italian Senate) is not the plot. It is that the first-person narrative by the insecure and self-deprecating lawyer teems with wit and provides a perceptive commentary on Italian life, law and mores.' - The Times
'Bitter Lemon Press is making something of a reputation for itself for publishing translations of crime novels and if this book is a typical example of its products that reputation can only grow. TEMPORARY PERFECTIONS is the fourth in a series of books featuring defence lawyer Guido Guerreri. A reviewer who has not read at least some of the previous books in a series can often find themselves at a disadvantage but that is certainly not the case here. The story is completely self-contained. Carofiglio's previous incarnation as a Public Prosecutor in Bari may have been of use to him in his earlier books but it is less in evidence here where, instead of being involved in legal niceties, he is himself carrying out an investigation into a missing girl. This is not a role in which he feels qualified and he is at first reluctant to raise the hopes of the distraught parents. However, he recalls a conversation with a bookish taxi driver who quoted Paul Valéry, "The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up." Approaching middle age, divorced and with only his small legal firm for family, he feels that he is in a sense asleep. He decides to rouse himself and see if he can help.
This tendency to question himself as Guerrieri pursues his investigation seems to enable him to come up with the right questions and eventually the right answers. It is as if he gains insights from looking back over his life. His recollections include being bullied as a child, stealing sweets from a shop in order to feel part of a gang and an adolescent crush on a girl who humiliated him. He has a punching bag to which he talks confidentially. He confesses to it that his life seems drab and intensely sad. He explains that the advantage of these exchanges is that the bag doesn't charge a fee, is never judgmental and doesn't inspire the normal sexual feelings between psychotherapist and patient. Such is the extent of his personal relationship with the bag that he even goes so far as to apologize to it for a banal metaphor! His thoughts and recollections, his references to authors like Proust, Conan Doyle and Poe, which occupy most of his time when he is not carrying out his investigation, are always interesting in themselves and never provoke the feeling that he ought to be getting on with his business. What we come to learn is that his innate human sympathy will be a valuable quality in his quest to understand what happened to a young girl.
When Guerrieri does begin his enquiries, he is always thorough. He interviews again all those potential witnesses who have already been interviewed by the Carabinieri and picks up subtle hints they have missed. He seeks the advice of a friend in the Carabinieri who, whilst he has no criticism of the way in which his colleagues dealt with the case, suggests certain additional lines of enquiry that might be profitable. He even makes use of former criminal clients to gather information. The patient approach pays off and eventually there arrives what might be called 'the Colombo moment' when - like the cigar-smoking little man in the dirty raincoat - he casually asks "just one more question" and solves the mystery. Perhaps it wasn't such a mystery after all, though the manner of its solution is wholly engrossing.'
- Reviewing the Evidence
'Guido Guerrieri looks into a cold case in Carofiglio's absorbing fourth legal thriller featuring the self-deprecating defense attorney (after Reasonable Doubts). Six months after beautiful 22-year-old Manuela Ferraro disappeared on her way home to Bari from Rome, where she was a college student, Manuela's parents are desperate. The carabinieri who handled the investigation are about to give up. As a favor to a fellow lawyer, Guerrieri agrees to help, though it means doing more detective work than usual. Fortyish, divorced, and recently dumped by a lover, Guerrieri suffers from Proustian memory fugues centered on painful episodes in his youth that become increasingly frequent as he approaches a solution to the mystery--a solution that nauseates him because it forces him to obey his own tough code of integrity. A satisfyingly complex protagonist and well-drawn secondary characters...' - Publisher's Weekly
'Guido Guerrieri is a defence counsel lawyer living and working in the city of Bari on Italy's Adriatic coast. He runs his own small but successful office with a team of loyal staff and has plenty of business to keep things ticking over nicely so when an old friend, a criminal lawyer, asks him to take on some work that he feels is not his area of expertise, Guido reluctantly listens to what he has to say. A young woman, a student from Bari but living in Rome has gone missing and, with little to work on, the police are about to shelve the case. Manuela's family hope that Guerrieri can run a legal eye over the paperwork and spot any errors in the police handling of the investigation that might give them the leverage they need to get the case re-opened.
Guido's enquiries hinge on the hope that one of the witnesses - the missing girl's friends, her ex-boyfriend or someone employed at one of the train stations she may have passed through - recalls something they had previously overlooked or considered irrelevant, and before long Guido is convinced that someone isn't telling the truth. But who is that, and what is it that person is hiding?
This is my first encounter with the rather dishy and (curiously) unattached Guido Guerrieri. I was, I cannot deny, immediately smitten. Guerrieri is confident in his work but vulnerable in his personal life. He confides in a punch bag hanging from the ceiling of his apartment, and finds peace wandering the darkened back streets of Bari late at night. I liked the way the character of Guerrieri has been crafted; we learn just enough of Guido's background to begin to understand
The novel is seemingly light on plot and offers little for armchair detectives who might be able to formulate their own theories but shouldn't look too hard for clues. We're led through the chronology of Guido's enquiry and sit in on his interviews but we don't get much of an insight as to where he thinks the investigation is taking him. Plot-wise it's tight but with such a simple story there's little to go wrong.
"I'm sure I'll make another date with the gorgeous Guerrieri… "
What it lacks in plot, though, is more than compensated for with intriguing characters and an atmospheric backdrop. Just the right amount of detail about the Italian legal system is woven into the story, any more might appear laboured and while the detail doesn't add anything to the plot development it certainly adds to the landscape. Carofiglio writes beautifully; each character is well drawn despite the economic use of language and none are superfluous to the plot. His fine evocation of the edgy Italian port city does much to distract the reader from the rather lightweight storyline.
Author Gianrico Carofiglio was previously a prosecutor in the Puglia region and it's obvious that this background has provided a credible and authentic voice to the narration. That he writes well is undeniable; the characters are credible and colourful, the backdrop at once beautiful and slightly seedy. It's a shame, then, that the story here does not reach the heights Carofiglio manages to scale in setting the scene. I found the novel engaging, but not because the story was particularly compelling or suspenseful.
Anthony Shugaar's translation appears to work, though not having read the novel in its original Italian it's difficult to be sure; there's certainly not, though, any of the clumsiness that can come with a poor translation and the dialogue in particular flows naturally.
I'm sure I'll make another date with the gorgeous Guerrieri; there's something attractive and engaging about the character that makes him stand out from the usual crowd of grumpy middle aged investigators so beloved of contemporary crime fiction authors, and I want to know more about him. The crime element is a let-down, at least on this outing, but I found the character so interesting that actually the somewhat tame investigation paled into insignificance.
One for Italophiles(?) rather than crime fiction fans perhaps, but an enjoyable read all the same.'
- Curious Book Fans
'Temporary Perfections is a first-rate thriller, stylish, witty and suspenseful. I am looking forward to many more from Carofiglio.'
- Kathy Reichs
'Temporary Perfections sees the counsel for the defence, Guido Guerrieri taking on a case outside the more usual perimeters of his work. He is persuaded by a friend to look into the disappearance of Manuela Ferraro, the daughter of a rich couple from Bari. The police have lost interest, long ago thwarted in their attempts to find leads, but the friend wants Guerrieri to see if there is any chance of re-opening the case.
Guerrieri may be diligent in his approach to the work, but there is a great sense of accompanying him as he operates through the haze of his ponderous, introspective, navel fluff-inspecting mid-life crisis, and as he reflects back on his life. Alone, the former amateur boxer's company ranges from the punch bag in his home with which he engages both physically and verbally, to a former prostitute and client, Nadia who now runs a local gay bar called The Chelsea Hotel, with whom he drinks, walks and talks.
Guerrieri proves to be a reluctant investigator, uncomfortable in his role and calling on the techniques of his literary heroes (allowing the author to pay homage to his own heroes). But, all that is cut through with a fine scalpel when Guerrieri encounters the friend of the missing Manuela, Caterina. As she manipulatively toys with him like a femme fatale in the making, he responds, often incurring guilt at his all too easy reactions.
The crime plot is not the essence of Temporary Perfections, its characters and their lives are. In fact, the crime plot feels incidental. But, as Carofiglio so carefully and often beautifully draws his characters and their circumstances, we are privy to the devastating consequences of crime. Described as a legal thriller, this is not one for those seeking a thrill and hanging hook every short chapter; Temporary Perfections hits the spot of the cerebral and considered venture into the investigation of crime and its effects. Our narrator's mid-life crisis also has the feel of being very real, from which no refuge can be sought, although the narrative is imbued with humour too.
Gianrico Carofiglio is one of Italy's bestselling authors, having sold over 2.5 million books in the Guerrieri series in Italy alone. Formerly an anti-Mafia prosecutor in Bari, a port on the coast of Puglia, he is now a member of the Italian Senate. Temporary Perfections is the fourth in the series, available in the UK thanks to the wonderful Bitter Lemon Press in paperback and ebook edition here.' - It's a Crime UK
'Fans of that gorgeous Italian advocate, Guido Guerrieri, will be saddened by the melancholy which has overcome him in this, the fourth of his forensic adventures to be translated (by Antony Shugaar). We find the crusading criminal lawyer of Bari, now in his forties, in gloomy mode, knocking back Primitivo in an empty apartment. His girlfriend has left for America; he is living on takeaways and has just lost an important case in the Court of Cassation, Italy's highest tribunal. He even encounters that classic symbol of depression, a black dog: the one-eared Baskerville. His social life centres around the Chelsea Hotel, named after the bohemian New York establishment, where he is befriended by the exotic Nadia, porn actress and former client, who teaches him the finer points of drinking absinthe.
Into this Baudelarian lifestyle comes an old lawyer acquaintance with a run-of-the-mill problem: a client whose student daughter has gone missing. Guerrieri's interest is aroused by some curious aspects of the case, not least that the girl apparently vanished into thin air at a railway station. She was on vacation with student friends in a "trulli", curious conical stone structures in Apulia, once humble peasant huts, now holiday homes for the rich.
Guerrieri explores his past life to analyse the decisions which have brought him to this point. The gloom is brightened by an affair with beautiful Caterina, friend of the missing girl. But Guerrieri is sadly aware of the difference in their ages and that the relationship has no future. He also has lesser problems: a case of terrorism that turns on a legal peculiarity; a client accused of corruption whose real offence seems to be wearing tasseled loafers. More seriously, he has to investigate the drug scene among young people. Was the missing girl an addict, and how widespread was drug-use among her friends? Eventually, Guerrieri has to choose between the ethics he adopted as a young lawyer and shielding Caterina.
This is not only a fascinating panorama of Bari's neon-lit underworld. It's a fine literary achievement: a study of angst and the efforts of a disillusioned hero to find some integrity in a shady world.' - Independent
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  • Gianrico CarofiglioReviewTemporary Perfections