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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

A Fine Line

Gianrico Carofiglio

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To purchase A Fine Line

Title: A Fine Line
Author: Gianrico Carofiglio
Genre: Novel
Written: 2014 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 280 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: A Fine Line - US
A Fine Line - UK
A Fine Line - Canada
Eine Frage der Würde - Deutschland
La regola dell'equilibrio - Italia
  • Italian title: La regola dell'equilibrio
  • Tranlsated by Howard Curtis

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Our Assessment:

B : solid story, well-handled

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 14/3/2016 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Carofiglio’s fifth Guido Guerrieri novel (...) edges gracefully over the line from legal thriller into the realm of Paul Auster, as much a series of philosophical musings on life as a mystery." - Publishers Weekly

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:

       A Fine Line is the fifth in the series featuring Bari lawyer Guido Guerrieri. He is forty-eight now, and a health scare at the beginning of the novel puts him in an even more reflective mood than usual, wondering about his life and his career. It comes out of the blue, because Guerrieri is actually in very good shape for his age, still boxing -- not just at the gym, but with the punching bag he has in the middle of his apartment. (There is a physical altercation in the novel, too, and though he gets bruised he shows he can -- for now -- at least hold his own against some young punks.)
       Guerrieri is living a solitary life, his wife now remarried while pretty much all he has for company at night is that punching bag -- which he does engage in conversation ..... Business is going well, but the cases are fairly routine. Until he gets a call from a local judge (and a high school classmate of his) who wants Guerrieri to represent him.
       The judge has had a stellar career:

     Pierluigi Larocca wasn't just anybody. If the expression top of the class could be applied to anyone, that person was him.
       Indeed, it looks like he's in line to become: "the youngest president of the Court of Bari" when the current one steps down in a few months.
       Larocca has a problem: he thinks he's under investigation, for taking a bribe to affect the outcome of a case. He wants Guerrieri to look into it, and take the appropriate actions -- and Guerrieri does.
       Part of the appeal of the Guerrieri-novels is Carofiglio's detailed presentation of the workings of the Italian justice- and legal- systems -- which differ considerably (entirely, one is tempted to say) from the American one. Here, where the case involves possible judicial misconduct, procedure gets even more complicated. For one -- understandably -- the court in charge is elsewhere -- in Lecce, in this case. And part of the difficulty of handling such a case, especially in these early stages, is that the would-be accused hasn't been accused yet, so it's unclear exactly what they suspect him of and how the prosecutor intends to proceed.
       Though Guerrieri counsels his clients -- and especially Larocca -- patience, to see how things unfold, he is not one to stand completely idly by: he wants to plan his counter-moves before the other side has even revealed their moves. Guerrieri understands that knowledge and information are power -- and provide the upper hand. The prosecution, by not tipping its hand, would seem to have the advantage -- but Guerrieri has a very good PI, Annapaola, and through her is able to get his hands on all sorts of official and unofficial information.
       The case against Larocca is rather flimsy, as is, and Guerrieri is a very good lawyer. The courtroom showdowns are not much like those on American TV -- there's certainly more code-citing and procedural arguing that proves about as important as any actual testimony -- and not quite as exciting, but it's entertaining to see this different kind of legal process at work.
       Rather to his own surprise, Guerrieri finds himself blindsided. He finds himself put in a very uncomfortable situation by circumstances, demonstrating yet again that the legal system and the role of the lawyer make for an ethical minefield that can be difficult to navigate, especially for a straight-arrow like Guerrieri.
       Carofiglio presents all this very well -- and adds a bit of color with Guerrieri's personal life, from the lawyer's nostalgia about days gone by to his bookstore flirting (a nice touch: his friends' all-night bookstore (where Guerrieri lets himself be talked into buying Pierre Bayard's How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read)) to the budding affair with the (perhaps a bit too colorful) Annapaola.
       At times Carofiglio (and Guerrieri) try too hard to project a certain image, as when a friend observes about the lawyer:
     "You aren't a real intellectual."
     "You can bet on it."
       But though Guerrieri claims to have some rough edges -- as demonstrated also by his boxing hobby -- he's pretty polished, intellectually and otherwise.
       Here as elsewhere, Carofiglio prefers the direct approach -- telling, or having someone say, rather than showing -- but that speeds things along, and allows him to pack a lot into these less than three-hundred pages -- even with the verbatim transcripts on offer, documentary evidence of the law at work. He packs a great deal in -- and the way the novel moves across characters and events reflects real life (and work), in not focusing exclusively on just part of it, but rather also touching on the mundane and incidental as it also constantly comes up.
       As with the ease with which Guerrieri is handed the information he needs but which shouldn't really be accessible to him, much of the novel also serves up the issues -- and some of the answers -- to the reader all too easily. Still, there's enough thoughtful reflection here -- and enough engaging episodes -- to make for a solid, enjoyable read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 9 May 2016

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A Fine Line: Reviews: Other books by Gianrico Carofiglio under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

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

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