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Alibi: A Novel Hardcover – March 24, 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It's late 1945 at the start of this atmospheric historical thriller, and G.I. Adam Miller, officially assigned to ferret out Nazi war criminals in Germany, joins his widowed mother, Grace, who has recently arrived in Venice from New York to resume her life as a wealthy American expatriate. Together, they flow into the social eddies of the upper class, determined to pick up where they left off in 1939. Grace has met an old flame, Gianni Maglione, a distinguished doctor whom Adam suspects of gold-digging. Meanwhile, Adam himself meets Jewish Claudia Grassini, who survived the Nazi pogroms by becoming the mistress of a powerful Italian Fascist. The novel's languid pace picks up when Claudia meets Maglione, whom she accuses not only of being a Nazi collaborator but also of having condemned her own father to Auschwitz. Further complications arise with the appearance of Rosa, an Italian operative and former partisan. Kanon (The Good German, etc.) keeps his complex plot—involving murder, elaborate alibis, false accusations and a web of secrets spinning back to the war—on track, although the various entanglements aren't always neatly unraveled. Adam and Claudia's love affair provides the requisite romance, but there's no sense that they find much to like in one another. More interesting is Kanon's portrait of a pathetic and hopelessly naïve group of wealthy people out of touch with the postwar world's reality. Agent, Amanda Urban. Author tour. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In The Good German (2001), Kanon superbly evoked the post-apocalyptic, pockmarked moonscape of 1946 Germany. Now he turns to postwar Venice, where there are no pockmarks but the survivors are equally shell-shocked by the nearness of evil. Adam Miller, fresh from a stint as a war crimes investigator in Frankfurt, arrives in Vienna to visit his globe-trotting mother, who is holding tenuously to the remains of her fortune and embarking on an autumnal romance with a Venetian doctor whose wartime associations with the Nazis remain troubling if obscure. Miller begins a tumultuous romance with a Jewish woman whose own wartime experience has left her with deep psychic wounds. Soon enough the past can no longer remain hidden as a stunning murder leaves Adam torn between righting wrongs and protecting those he loves and himself. In a world where alibis are the currency of the era--everyone was "somewhere else when the air-raid sirens covered the sounds of people being dragged off"--Adam attempts to tread lightly through a landscape loaded with moral land mines. As before, Kanon juxtaposes a powerful love story and a gripping thriller against a palpable historical moment, but this time his hero can't quite shoulder the burden, his naive American assumptions about right and wrong leaving him ill-equipped to respond and never quite able to garner our full sympathy. And, yet, the novel holds us completely, with its vision of a sadly inadequate hero striking deep at our worst fears about ourselves. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1st edition (April 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080507886X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805078862
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Joseph Kanon is the best selling author of Los Alamos and The Good German. Critics have compared his writing style to le Carre, Greene, and Orwell, but I found Kanon's prose to be more provocative and accessible.

Adam Miller is weary of his work. As a U.S. Army war crimes investigator in post war Germany, he's systematically separated the truly evil Nazis from citizens who merely closed their eyes to fanaticism gone beyond their control. When his tour of duty ends in 1946, Adam visits his widowed mother in Venice. She has returned to familiar surroundings in hopes of being happy again. Venice initially appears to be untouched by the war, but destruction takes many forms. Bombed out buildings are not always the worst aftermath of war.

At first, Adam is at loose ends. Memories of death camps leave him sleepless and disoriented. He wanders the canals and alleyways in hopes the city's beauty will provide solace or at least energize his spirit. His mother is engaged to Dr. Gianni Maglione, a betrothal he suspects is for her money. Old family friend Bertie Howard practices a forced gaiety, which Adam finds improbable. A wintry Venice with its cold rains and creeping fogs depresses Adam, until he meets Claudia Grassini. Making love in secret, seedy hideaways brings delight at first, a fleeting comfort as awful truths unravel. Wherever Adam turns, nothing is as it appears to be.

People do things to survive they wouldn't consider under normal circumstances. They bend, ignore, pretend. And no one has perfected the art of surviving better than those who live in Venice. Adam suspects Dr. Maglione may be more than a fortune hunter. He may be a Nazi sympathizer, or worse. And Claudia has her own secrets to protect.
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Format: Hardcover
I had the immense pleasure of speaking with Mr. Kannon about this book. I found him to be one of the nicest men on the planet, and a man genuinely interested in the human spirit. Such is the backbone for Alibi, a book he purposefully executed differently from his previous works. Unlike Los Alamos and The Good German, the mystery here is not about the crime so much as the people who commit it. "You'll know who did it early on," he said. And he's right. But that's not the point. The point is how and why they did it.

As Kanon himself is apt to explain, there was a gray area that existed for a lot of Europeans in WWII. Many were forced into situations they didn't want to be in. Many played the odds and joined sides they thought would ensure their survivial. And some found themselves with a new freedom to unleash darker sides they'd been hiding, hoping in the end they'd be vindicated. No matter the case, the mystery here is but a question: during the nazi occupation of Venice, who was really at fault for helping the Germans? The answer is really up to the reader to conclude.

This is certainly the darkest of all his books. I wasn't even sure if I should be routing for the protagonist, as he is both likeable and infuriating. Of course, Kanon does this on purpose, puttting us, the reader, in the position of those Italians who sided with the Germans for whatever reason they did--we're siding with Adam because we have to, because he's the story, our own private Venice, but we're not sure we really like him or understand him. He's a good guy, with good intentions, but he's also a bad guy, acting before he thinks. He's a gray area.
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Format: Hardcover
Setting this novel in Venice immediately after World War II, Joseph Kanon creates a stimulating mystery that turns the city itself into a major character. Venice, unlike other areas of Italy, has not been damaged physically by the war, and life is returning to normal. The political atmosphere, however, remains turbulent. Aristocrats, businessmen, and politicians who cooperated with the fascists and Germans are still in power. Partisans who fought the fascists and Germans regard many of these people as traitors and want justice. The Communists are making inroads into society with their promises of reform.

Into this milieu comes Grace Miller, an American widow, and her son Adam, just released from the US Army as part of a de-Nazification team in Frankfurt. Grace is about to marry Gianni Maglione, a Venetian doctor, and Adam wonders about Gianni's past. Soon Adam meets Claudia Grassini, a young Jewish woman who survived internment in Fossoli, and they begin a passionate affair. When Claudia is introduced to Gianni at a party, however, she recognizes him immediately, telling Adam that Gianni betrayed her very sick father to security forces rounding up Jews.

Using his past army connections to get further information about Gianni, Adam investigates, but violence soon changes the focus of his energies, and the nightmare involving Adam, his family, and Claudia intensifies. Adam's extreme introspection as he helps the police investigate broadens the scope and focuses attention on important themes of crime and justice, and Claudia's vulnerability as a result of the Holocaust gives added poignancy to her similar self-examinations.
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