Fois, Marcello - 'The Advocate : A Sardinian Mystery'
THE ADVOCATE was nominated for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger 2003 award, (won by Andrew Taylor’s THE AMERICAN BOY), but has taken a while to reach my attention but I'm glad I finally got to read it.
It's really only a novella, at 118 pages long, but it has a strong impact due to the delightful writing by Fois and skilled translation by Patrick Creagh (who recently translated INVOLUNTARY WITNESS by Gianrico Carofiglio).
The story of Bustianu, the eponymous advocate, is set in the 1890s when Sardinia had become part of Italy and reflects the tensions and resentments of the time on both sides of the sea.
Bustianu is hired by the mother of a striking young man called Zenobi who has fled after being accused of sheep stealing by his rich employer. Zenobi is presumed guilty by all, except for his mother and Sisinnia, the beautiful daughter of his employer. Bustianu trusts his instincts and also believes the boy is innocent and even though he doesn't get to meet his client until the end of the story he continues to question and work on his behalf. However things get worse for Zenobi when he is accused of murder and a bounty put on his head. Bustianu, with the help of a friendly policeman has to set a trap for the real murderer…
This is a very simple crime story but it is full of atmosphere, the heat and colours of the pastoral setting are evoked by poetical descriptions. Bustianu is a complex character who appears older than his thirty years and every day to stretch his legs, his climbs a hill he calls his 'ever beloved'. This book is well worth seeking out and I look forward to Fois' next translated work, BLOOD FROM THE SKIES, which is due out in 2006.
Karen Meek, England