Source: Review copy
Publication: 13th September 2018 from Bitter Lemon Press
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.
Oh, I am glad I got to read this book. The Cold Summer is a police procedural, but with verisimilitude, weaving together fact and fiction in this tale of mafia style gangsters and the police who hunt them.
This isn’t a book for those who want clues left as droppings to discover and ponder over; rather it is the slow and methodical revealing of the casual violence and murder at the heart of a justice system which is riddled with corruption.
Gianrico Carofiglio was an anti-mafia prosecutor and judge and in this novel he uses that experience to chilling effect. Set in Bari the capital of Puglia, The Cold Summer is a story of mafia warfare against the police, the courts and the judges, and bitter internecine strife.
Set in 1992, when the Mafia wars were at their height and judges were being targeted, Carofiglio introduces us to Marshal Pietro Fenoglio, a cerebral police officer who likes to think before he acts, but when he acts he does to with decisiveness. Much of the joy in this book comes from Fenoglio who is both engaging and despite his years as a police officer, idealistic.
Fenoglio is a cultured man who loves his opera, and can be found thinking at the museum of art after first appreciating his favourite paintings. His discussions with his colleague Pellecchia have a philosophical quality as together they discuss ethical issues, the black white and shades of grey that they encounter every day. How to stay on the right track is a constant theme of this book and though honest to his core, Fenoglio is not without understanding of the human condition and a deal of compassion. He is a fascinating figure as well as a dogged policeman who will painstakingly follow every lead to solve his case.
The case in question here is the kidnapping of the son of the local crime boss for ransom. But the boy is later found dead and all suspicion leads to the leader of the rival faction, Vito Lopez who has been bumping off his erstwhile compatriots in an effort to gain supremacy.
But when Vito realises his only option is to turn informer, he offers a litany of crimes of cold blooded violence and murder which stops short of admitting to the kidnapping of the boy. Because Lopez has been so forthcoming, Fenoglio is inclined to take him at his word and he and Pellecchia set out to track down the real perpetrators.
This is not a fast paced or gripping read, quite the opposite – it’s much more considered and nuanced and that’s what makes it fascinating. The testimony of Lopez is very detailed, but that rendition of so much casual, cold blooded violence with no thought for humanity is chilling in itself, especially when contrasted with Lopez attitude to his animals.
The Cold Summer is a fascinating example of flawed humanity, complex moral and ethical issues all within the parameters of a solid police procedural.
I loved the characters of Fenoglio, Pellecchia, Captain Valente and the Prosecutor Dottoressa D’Angelo. Their conversations are what makes this book so fascinating and worthwhile.
Verdict: Thoughtful, fascinating, a book that really makes you think. Highly recommended.
About Gianrico Carofiglio
Award-winning, best-selling novelist Gianrico Carofiglio was born in Bari in 1961 and worked for many years as a prosecutor specialising in organised crime.
He was appointed advisor of the anti-Mafia committee in the Italian parliament in 2007 and served as a senator from 2008 to 2013.
Carofiglio is best know for the Guido Guerrieri crime series; Involuntary Witness, A Walk in the Dark, Reasonable Doubts, Temporary Perfections and now, a Fine Line, all published by Bitter Lemon Press.
His other novels include The Silence of the Wave.
Carofiglio’s books have sold more than four million copies in Italy and have been translated into twenty-four languages worldwide.
Follow Gianrico on Twitter @GianricoCarof
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