WHODUNIT: JACK BATTEN
A Fine Line By Gianrico Carofiglio, Bitter Lemon, 286 pages, $14.95
Gianrico Carofiglio is the Scott Turow of Italy. Both have worked in the criminal courts in real life but write novels that offer their readers detailed and reliable, not to mention entertaining, guides through their respective nations’ justice systems.
“A Fine Line” is Carofiglio’s fifth book featuring Guido Guerrieri, a defence lawyer in the southern Italian city of Bari.
Guerrieri is 48, single, a highly engaging fellow, clever but a worrywart who turns away two kinds of clients: pedophiles and Mafiosi. He doesn’t slam the door on cases involving judges accused of corruption, but he approaches them warily.
In the new book, a childhood friend who is now a much-respected senior judge approaches Guerrieri to defend him against accusations that he takes payoffs to keep mob members out of prison.
Guerrieri accepts the case, thinking he’s on firm ground in defending this apparent paragon of the bench against a bum rap.
Among the Wicked By Linda Castillo, Minotaur, 320 pages, $31.50 Linda Castillo has a good thing going with America’s Amish communities, though the Amish may not appreciate Castillo’s interest. “Among the Wicked” is the eighth Castillo book featuring the admirable Kate Burkholder, a lapsed Amish who is now the conscientious sheriff of an Ohio town. In the new book, Kate goes undercover in an Amish community where a teenage girl has died in mysterious circumstances. Kate, in her familiar fearless mode, discovers wicked actors of all sorts, including a renegade Amish bishop, but to her amazement, she learns the bad guys aren’t all of the Amish persuasion.
Raven Lake By Rosemary McCracken, Imajin, 224 pages, $17 Pat Tierney is a crackerjack financial planner in southern Ontario, a woman of dignity and responsibility, but she can’t help meddling when criminal activity passes her way. In the third, and most dense, Tierney book, set in Ontario cottage country, Tierney deals with a couple of murders, a cottage rental scam and, coincidentally, her own unmarried 18year-old daughter’s pregnancy. Suspects in all the cases are thick on the ground — except in the pregnancy, which presents problems of a different sort — and Tierney remains forever calm in the face of the multiple puzzles and some dim-witted OPP interference.
More than ever, Tierney is developing into the kind of sleuth who’ll be welcome in return visits.
Umbrella Man By Peggy Blair, Simon & Schuster, 320 pages, $22 Peggy Blair’s first three crime novels were strong on character and atmosphere. But plot? Not as much. That changes with her marvelously accomplished fourth book. Havana Police Insp. Ricardo Ramirez is as intelligent and good-hearted as ever, and Blair’s depiction of poor but cheerful Cuba seems a small triumph of evocation. As for the story, Blair manipulates the new book’s characters — Russian agents with nasty agendas, a sneaky CIA guy, marketers in Colombian drugs and the Eastern European sex trade — with the finesse of a card shark dealing a hand from the bottom of the deck.