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Carofiglio, Gianrico - 'The Past is a Foreign Country' (translated by Howard Curtis)
Paerback: 256 pages (July 2008) Publisher: Old Street Publishing ISBN: 1905847513

This book is fabulous. It gets into your head, hooks you, reels you in and won't let you go. It has two different plots going on at the same time, although one is far more developed than the other. While both storylines are really enjoyable, it is delightfully frustrating not knowing how the two are connected. Things become clearer towards the very end, but you've already worked it out for yourself by then anyway. Surprisingly, this doesn't matter very much as it doesn't spoil the tension in the plot.

Giorgio is a studious and ambitious law student. He has a perfect grade record, a nice girlfriend from a good family and his whole life mapped out before him. One Christmas he unexpectedly defends a complete stranger, Francesco, at a party and then, one thing leading to another, is sucked into the dark and violent world of big time poker playing and cheating. His winnings spiral beyond his wildest dreams and his studies eventually grind to a halt. Giorgio and Francesco are now firm friends and one day, a month or so after meeting, decide to go on holiday together. They head off in Giorgio's new car to see where they will end up. But, before too long, Giorgio is stunned to discover he has gone on this not-so-spontaneous-after-all holiday to become involved in a massive drugs deal. The stakes get even higher and he realizes how far removed from his old life he has become.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Chiti and his men are trying to catch the perpetrator of a series of increasingly violent sex attacks taking place across the city. Chiti is under pressure to get results but feels as if the case is going nowhere: The victims do not see their attacker, as he grabs them from behind, and there are no witnesses to the crimes either. Chiti is a mysterious character that we don't find out much about. He is disturbed by bad dreams and wakes every night suffering from an agonizing migraine. Hismother's suicide when he was a child still deeply affects the way he looks at life but that is really all we are told about him.

The only real flaw in this book is that the part of it dealing with the criminal investigation is not given anywhere near enough attention. The small amount we do get to see into Chiti's life is fascinating and well written but there simply isn't enough of it. The book could easily be a bit longer, so that Giorgio and Francesco's story remains the same, but Chiti could then tell us a bit more about himself. There isn't really a twist at the end of book either but, then, there doesn't have to be. It is more Giorgio mulling things over, and then telling us what happened, after a coincidental meeting in a bar with someone that he knew way back when everything was taking place.

I highly recommend this book and suggest you go out to buy it today. You won't be able to rest until you have finished it.

Read another review of THE PAST IS A FOREIGN COUNTRY.

Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland
September 2008

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.



last updated 6/09/2008 11:04