Temporary Perfections sees the counsel for the defence, Guido Guerrieri taking on a case outside the more usual perimeters of his work. He is persuaded by a friend to look into the disappearance of Manuela Ferraro, the daughter of a rich couple from Bari. The police have lost interest, long ago thwarted in their attempts to find leads, but the friend wants Guerrieri to see if there is any chance of re-opening the case.
Guerrieri may be diligent in his approach to the work, but there is a great sense of accompanying him as he operates through the haze of his ponderous, introspective, navel fluff-inspecting mid-life crisis, and as he reflects back on his life. Alone, the former amateur boxer’s company ranges from the punch bag in his home with which he engages both physically and verbally, to a former prostitute and client, Nadia who now runs a local gay bar called The Chelsea Hotel, with whom he drinks, walks and talks.
Guerrieri proves to be a reluctant investigator, uncomfortable in his role and calling on the techniques of his literary heroes (allowing the author to pay homage to his own heroes). But, all that is cut through with a fine scalpel when Guerrieri encounters the friend of the missing Manuela, Caterina. As she manipulatively toys with him like a femme fatale in the making, he responds, often incurring guilt at his all too easy reactions.
The crime plot is not the essence of Temporary Perfections, its characters and their lives are. In fact, the crime plot feels incidental. But, as Carofiglio so carefully and often beautifully draws his characters and their circumstances, we are privy to the devastating consequences of crime. Described as a legal thriller, this is not one for those seeking a thrill and hanging hook every short chapter; Temporary Perfections hits the spot of the cerebral and considered venture into the investigation of crime and its effects. Our narrator’s mid-life crisis also has the feel of being very real, from which no refuge can be sought, although the narrative is imbued with humour too.
Gianrico Carofiglio is one of Italy’s bestselling authors, having sold over 2.5 million books in the Guerrieri series in Italy alone. Formerly an anti-Mafia prosecutor in Bari, a port on the coast of Puglia, he is now a member of the Italian Senate. Temporary Perfections is the fourth in the series, available in the UK thanks to the wonderful Bitter Lemon Press in paperback and ebook edition here.