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.
KIRKUS:"Carofiglio’s engaging main character. Fenoglio is a sensitive, polished figure who has managed to keep his idealism intact in a career meant to break it; he is as comfortable philosophizing as he is citing the public safety code. When he recalls a joke about a drunkard searching for his keys under a streetlight rather than in the dark street where he lost them, he realizes his search is failing for the same reason: “We look where it’s light, even though that’s exactly how not to solve the problem." Solving this case, Carofiglio shows us, requires a leap into the darkness.
PW: This is sure to win Carofiglio, a former prosecutor who specialized in organized crime, a wider U.S. audience.
CrimeTime: Who better to tell you how the Mafia works than the man who in real life was an Italian prosecutor and advisor to the government’s anti-Mafia Committee? This at times meditative book teaches us much about gangland’s childish rituals and Italian police procedure but still racks up some tension before its realistic conclusion. It’s a book for adult readers, about gangsters who are little more than viscously bad boys.