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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Temporary Perfections

Gianrico Carofiglio

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To purchase Temporary Perfections

Title: Temporary Perfections
Author: Gianrico Carofiglio
Genre: Novel
Written: 2010 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 331 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: Temporary Perfections - US
Temporary Perfections - UK
Temporary Perfections - Canada
Temporary Perfections - India
Le silence pour preuve - France
In ihrer dunkelsten Stunde - Deutschland
Le perfezioni provvisorie - Italia
Las perfecciones provisionales - España
  • Italian title: Le perfezioni provvisorie
  • Translated by Antony Shugaar

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Our Assessment:

B : long-winded, but comes together reasonably well -- but the writing is terribly uneven

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 1/11/2011 Jane Jakeman
New Statesman . 21/9/2011 Rosie Goldsmith
The NY Times Book Rev. . 2/10/2011 Marilyn Stasio
The Telegraph . 4/9/2011 Julia Handford
The Washington Post . 25/9/2011 Richard Lipez

  From the Reviews:
  • "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." - Jane Jakeman, The Independent

  • "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." - Rosie Goldsmith, New Statesman

  • "Carofiglioís writing also has its entertaining quirks, in Antony Shugaarís idiomatic translation. (...) But wherever it strays, the narrative keeps coming back to Guerrieri and the thoughts that rattle around in his head, often spilling out before he can stop them." - Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

  • "As usual it is difficult to tell the good guys from the bad in Italy." - Julia Handford, The Telegraph

  • "Itís 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, itís fun to guess what the point of any given apparent digression might be." - Richard Lipez, The Washington Post

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:

       Guido Guerrieri has a new office, but otherwise little has changed for the lawyer from Bari. In his mid-forties, the divorced attorney remains alone, still taking it out on his boxing bag -- "Mr. Bag", as he affectionately calls it -- when he finds the time but otherwise dutifully doing his job. As always, part of the fun of the Guerrieri-novels is in the descriptions of how the Italian legal process (and specifically the judicial system) works -- though in contrast to American courtroom dramas, Carofiglio focuses on procedure, and Guerrieri is usually in and out of the courtroom in a few minutes (and even when he's in there longer, Carofiglio just quickly sums up what material was presented).
       Guerrieri seems to be doing okay, but he doesn't hold his profession (much less other lawyers and judges) in too high regard, and sometimes it does get to him that he is helping get crooks off the hook (though he does try to avoid the slimiest of offenders, as well as Mafiosi and the like). If not exactly broken, the system is obviously not an ideal one to see justice served, and at heart Guerrieri really does care about justice.
       The case at the heart of Temporary Perfections isn't even technically much of a legal one, at least not the kind that Guerrieri deals with: six months earlier a young student, Manuela Ferraro, had disappeared and the police haven't gotten anywhere in their investigations. The district attorney handling the case is getting ready to ask for the investigation to be closed, and that's why the Ferraros and their lawyer turn to Guerrieri: he's a criminal lawyer, and maybe he can turn up something in the files or elsewhere that would compel the police to at least keep the investigation open. Guerrieri has his doubts, but he agrees to try -- and as a bit amused by the opportunity to pretend at playing private investigator, too.
       Guerrieri can't dedicate himself entirely to this one case -- he has real work to do, too -- but he looks through the files, speaks with the investigators, and contacts some of Manuela's friends. A convenient suspect -- involved in drugs, with a violent reputation, and close to Mauela -- appears to have a convincing alibi in that he was out of the country. And everything else seems to be a dead end -- though it's not simple for someone to disappear without a trace.
       Carofiglio lets Guerrieri meander along, juggling his cases, drinking at the gay bar a former madam-client of his now runs, occasionally going a round with Mister Bag, and trying to figure out what could possibly have happened to Manuela. There are some interesting examples of cases he deals with, and clients he has to put up with, and others he encounters, and the introspective narrator remains caught up in himself, occasionally nostalgic, often philosophical. It's reasonably entertaining, though a bit unfocused -- but at least in a realistic way; few legal thrillers or police procedurals acknowledge all the mundane everyday activities that complicate investigations, and Carofiglio practically revels in them.
       One of Manuela's friends, Caterina Pontradolfi, isn't just helpful; she actually seems interested in Guerrieri. He has some qualms -- she's barely half his age -- but she's hard to resist. And she is someone who can get another of Manuela's friends to open up, which might get him on the right track.
       Things do not work out quite as hoped, but Carofiglio ties it all together nicely, figuring out what happened to Manuela -- admirably, too, like so much that involves crime, what happened is almost banal (and tragic in its banality), as Carofiglio doesn't overcomplicate matters.
       When all is said and done Guerrieri also has good reason to get philosophical again, as he sees first hand again that it's a tough and lonely world out there.
       Temporary Perfections has few of those, with its appeal lying in how atypical its progress is for a thriller (though it must be said it's also at its best in the more conventional resolution-scenes). Guerrieri is a sympathetic kind of guy, and despite his boxing background has little of the P.I. bravado that's far too common in such thrillers; indeed, Carofiglio is particularly good at presenting him as a vulnerable figure.
       It must be noted, however, that the writing here is uneven, and some of it near-painfully bad in its clichés and expression; in this respect the comparisons to Grisham are spot-on, as Carofiglio constantly shows himself to have a similar tin ear.

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 November 2011

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Temporary Perfections: 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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© 2011-2021 the complete review

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