WHO­DUNIT: JACK BAT­TEN

The Hamilton Spectator - - BOOKS -

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.

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