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The Past Is a Foreign Country: A Thriller Hardcover – July 20, 2010

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The Past Is a Foreign Country: A Thriller + A Walk in the Dark (Guido Guerrieri) + Reasonable Doubts (Guido Guerrieri)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (July 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312383967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312383961
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,800,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set largely in the southern Italian city of Bari, this stylish psychological thriller from Carofiglio (A Walk in the Dark) fuses Jack Kerouac's On the Road with hard-edged crime fiction à la Henning Mankell's Inspector Wallander saga. When model law student Giorgio Cipriani meets charismatic philosophy student Francesco Carducci, he becomes enthralled by Francesco's dangerous lifestyle. Within weeks, Giorgio has abandoned his studies for high stakes poker games in which he and his newfound mentor cheat players out of large sums of money. Giorgio soon finds his life filled with late-night poker scams, drinking, drugs, and sexual encounters with random women. When Francesco manipulates him to take a "holiday" in Spain, Giorgio realizes just how completely he's forsaken his past. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Chiti of the Bari police tries to identify an elusive criminal who's been assaulting local women. The intertwining plot lines build to a haunting ending.
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From Booklist

Changing direction from his legal-thriller series starring Guido Guerrieri (Reasonable Doubts, 2007), Carofiglio offers a noirish thriller about a naive pre-law student who becomes involved with a cardsharp and watches his life spin out of control (think The Talented Mr. Ripley). Giorgio is looking for a little excitement when he befriends the charismatic Francesco at a poker game. Soon Francesco is training Giorgio in the art of bilking suckers, and the pair becomes a formidable team. But poker games are the least of Francesco’s interests. He lectures Giorgio in his version of Nietzschean philosophy, introduces him to women, and eventually enlists his help in smuggling cocaine from Spain to Italy. Giorgio knows he’s in too deep but is powerless to extricate himself—until the formidable Lieutenant Chiti, with shades of Dostoyevsky’s Porfiry Petrovich, enters the picture, on the trail of a serial rapist. Carofiglio establishes the mood early—we feel Francesco setting the hook in Giorgio and slowly, excruciatingly reeling him in—and then he heightens the tension by jumping back and forth in time, revealing a little but not enough to allow us to relax. As Francesco plays Giorgio, so Carofiglio plays the reader. --Bill Ott

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Customer Reviews

Fast paced, interesting characters, good plot.
Patricia Roberts
I won’t give away the ending except that for me it was too predictable.
Grey Wolffe
Not only is the plot lame and shallow, it is also utterly predictable.
Uri Schneider

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on July 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In the Apulia boot region of Italy, a serial rapist rocks the city of Bari. No woman feels safe as the police led by Lieutenant Chiti struggle to apprehend the culprit. Making no progress disturbs Chiti who cannot eat or sleep properly.

Hard studying diligent law student Giorgio Cipriani meets gust for life philosophy student Francesco Carducci. They become friends; albeit a seemingly odd couple. However, rather quickly Giorgio ignores his studies joining his new buddy in cheating other players out of large sums of money playing poker. They also share drugs and alcohol, and have one night stands that are often violent with a myriad of women. The duo leaves Bari for Spain; while Chiti continues to lose sleep over the serial rapes.

This is a tense psychological suspense that focuses on three people. Chiti feels like a failure unable to prevent the serial rapist from finding victims; Giorgio wonders how he fell so far from grace as he gave up and betrayed all his friends for the hedonistic zest for life that charismatic Francesco displays. However, Francesco is the fascinating one as a sort of Peter Pan with a destructive vent. The Past Is A Foreign Country is a taut tale that grips the audience from the moment the two students meet and go on their frenzy.

Harriet Klausner
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Roberts on July 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent Italian thriller focusing on Giorgio, a naive law student in Bari, his new friend Francesco, a mysterious card shark and amateur magician, and carabinieri Lieutenant Chiti, who is investigating a serial rapist. Fast paced, interesting characters, good plot. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
During the late eighties, Giorgio Cipriani is a twenty-two-year-old law student in Bari, Italy. He develops an unlikely friendship with the ne'er-do-well Francesco Carducci who is a philosophy major. The suave, handsome Francesco quickly seduces Giorgio into a glamorous, sensual life of crime. Together, they play poker and swindle their opponents out of small fortunes. Eventually, Giorgio forsakes law school and his obsession with Francesco causes him to descend into the depraved depths of cocaine trafficking and sexual perversion. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Chiti, the head of a task force, is trying to identify a serial rapist who is terrorizing Bari.

With friends like Francesco, who needs enemies? Someone should've taught Giorgio to be more careful in choosing his friends. Indeed, friendship, specifically how far we will go to protect our friends, seems to be a prevalent theme throughout Gianrico Carofiglio's beautifully written psychological crime drama, "The Past is a Foreign Country." Most of the novel is told in the first person from Giorgio's point of view. As a child, he loved to write; currently, he is writing about events taking place many years in the past. Once he read a novel titled "The Foreign Student;" on the page before its prologue was the following quotation: "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." Giorgio's life was much different during that turbulent year when he was friends with Francesco.

Francesco Carducci is a human chameleon with a high IQ. He can blend into any type of environment; he is able to easily make friends with people from all walks of life. With his incredibly handsome looks, he can seduce practically any woman. Happiness, however, eludes him.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ted Feit VINE VOICE on August 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The evil one does lives long after him. Or does it? That is the gist of this extraordinary tale about Giorgio, a young man studying to be a lawyer in a small Italian city who is drawn into a relationship with a person with few or no morals.

That person, Francesco, teaches him various card tricks and together they begin to play poker as a team, winning substantial sums. Consequently, Giorgio begins to lose interest in his studies as large amount of sums begin to accumulate and he has the wherewithal to buy luxuries, including a BMW automobile. Then little by little, Francesco lures him into other nefarious schemes.

Meanwhile, a serial rapist is active in the town, and the police and other law enforcement agencies are baffled and without a clue. In the end, both elements of the plot come together to provide a moral. While the insights into Giorgio's character and reactions are less than penetrating, the writing is smooth and on the whole this is a fascinating story, and one which is recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By propertius on October 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Many fans of the Guido Guerrieri series may be at first disappointed by this latest foray into the criminal world of Bari, since Gianrico Carofiglio has written a thriller without the wise-cracking lawyer. What he has written is from a purely literary view, an intriguingly compose mystery. part of the book is written in the first person, the speaker being Giorgio, a law student who is lead astray by an old acquaintance Francesco, a card-shark Mephistopheles.

The other part of this book is written by in a third person narrative and this concerns Lieutenant Chiti, a detective investigating a serial rapist. It has been remarked that the "who dun-it" aspect of the book is contrived and lacking in suspense. I may grant this point, but this more a psychological fan dance between good and evil, the past and present, men and women in a positive sense.

Carofiglio does not get into cheap psycho-babble, he even devotes a page to a psychiatric report at the end of the novel to emphasize this point. Think more in terms of Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene or Thomas Mann. I have criticized Carofiglio's Guerrieri series as being deficient in atmosphere. This would be a deadly sin in a book such as this which, happily, is not committed.

The more you get into the novel, the more you are enthralled by the journey and not the destination. The title of the book is the map and says all that needs to be said.
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