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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Reasonable Doubts

Gianrico Carofiglio

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To purchase Reasonable Doubts

Title: Reasonable Doubts
Author: Italian
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 249 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: Reasonable Doubts - US
Reasonable Doubts - UK
Reasonable Doubts - Canada
Reasonable Doubts - India
Les raisons du doute - France
Das Gesetz der Ehre - Deutschland
Ragionevoli dubbi - Italia
Dudas razonables - España
  • Italian title: Ragionevoli dubbi
  • Translated by Howard Curtis

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Our Assessment:

B : laid-back legal procedural

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
NZZ . 13/3/2008 Maike Albath
The Telegraph . 9/8/2007 Susanna Yager
The Times . 14/7/2007 Marcel Berlins

  From the Reviews:
  • "Ein routiniert gebauter Plot, ordentliche Dialoge, Bezüge zum Zeitgeschehen, Einblicke in die italienische Gesellschaft, eine verhaltene Romanze -- all das liefert Carofiglio." - Maike Albath, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Everything a legal thriller should be." - Marcel Berlins, The Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Reasonable Doubts is the third novel featuring Bari lawyer Guido Guerrieri. He is in his forties and on his own, without a woman in his life or any close friends. Reasonable Doubts is a first-person account, and much of it centres on Guerrieri's thoughts and doubts as he muddles along. Conveniently, the case at issue brings a lot of personal issues to the fore.
       One of the entertaining aspects of the Guerrieri-series is that the books are not concerned with mystery- or crime-solving, but rather are legal-procedurals. What's interesting about that is that, unlike their American or British counterparts, that does not make them courtroom dramas. Oh, sure, there is some drama in the courtroom, and counsel gets to make fine long closing arguments to try to convince everyone of the merits of their case, but for the most part the process is a very different one. The trial -- in this case the appeal of a case -- is drawn out, with appearances in front of the panel of judges (whose composition also changes every time) every couple of weeks. And then there's the defendant, sitting in his cage in the courtroom .....
       The case at hand is the appeal of the drug conviction of Fabio Paolicelli, who was nabbed for trying to smuggle forty kilos of cocaine across the border in his car a year and a half earlier. Sentenced to sixteen years, he is now appealing and has the choice of trying to plea-bargain and get a reduction in his sentence or trying to get the sentence overturned. The evidence is pretty damning -- the drugs were in the car, and he did sign a confession -- but the circumstances also somewhat fishy: he was pressured into signing the confession under the threat that if he didn't his wife would be arrested too, and he probably didn't have the ideal lawyer representing him at the time.
       Guerrieri is surprised when he is named as Paolicelli's counsel, and when he realises who Paolicelli is -- a (former ?) Fascist thug who once beat him up when he was a teen -- is sure he doesn't want to take the case. But there's Paolicelli's beautiful Italian-Japanese wife (and their cute little daughter) ... and there are also those strange facts about the case, like the lawyer who handled the first trial: Paolicelli's wife was told by someone she didn't know to call this Macrì, a lawyer from Rome who came down and 'handled' everything -- including persuading Paolicelli not to testify on his own behalf (i.e. get any of the plausible explanations for how the drugs wound up in his car on record).
       In any normal crime novel, once it's obvious that the suspect Macrì is the key to the case the hero would do everything to hunt down everything he could find out about the man and his nefarious dealings, but here Guerrieri only toys with even just hiring a private investigator, and other than asking a Roman lawyer about Macrì's reputation in the local courts pretty much doesn't lift a finger. Indeed, part of what's appealing about Reasonable Doubts is that proving Paolicelli's guilt or innocence isn't Guerrieri's holy grail: he'll do what he can, but he can't do much -- and he certainly can't go investigating the drug-gang connexions of some corrupt lawyer.
        Guerrieri is torn by the case. His dislike for Paolicelli is balanced by his too-great like for Paolicelli's wife (and, yes, something of a relationship develops there) -- and also his sense of justice, since it's pretty clear that Paolicelli was set up. But getting involved in this isn't going to win him any friends, especially since he has to call Macrì to testify, and going after a colleague is something that just isn't done. (The fact that Macrì is obviously well-connected, and that some threats are issued, adds a bit of tension to things, but even here Carofiglio stays true-to-life and lets them sputter and fizzle.)
       As far the 'thriller' aspect goes, Reasonable Doubts is marked by an almost complete lack of ambition. A few questions hang in the air -- is Paolicelli innocent ? will Guerrieri sleep with Paolicelli's wife ? how dangerous will Macrì prove to be ? -- but Carofiglio is content to let them waft there, with the personal issues ultimately as compelling as the criminal and legal ones.
        Reasonable Doubts is a sort of lazy legal procedural -- which also has to do with the fact that legal procedure (in Italy, especially) proceeds rather lazily, in fits and spurts. Carofiglio focusses more on his protagonist -- everything from how he whiles away his time (that all-night bookshop !) to what music he listens to to his smoking habits -- than on crime-solving. It's a different sort of crime novel, but not an unwelcome approach -- and the exoticism of an Italian trial certainly adds to the interest.
       Decidedly odd in feel and temperament, but a solid read.

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Reasonable Doubts: Reviews: Other books by Gianrico Carofiglio under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Gianrico Carofiglio is a prosecutor in Italy. He was born in 1961.

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