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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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