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Alibi: A Novel Paperback – May 16, 2006
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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“Burrowing deeply into Patricia Highsmith territory, Kanon has crafted an absorbing tale. . . . [Kanon] is frequently compared to the likes of John le Carré and Graham Greene. With Alibi, he shows that he's up to the comparison.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“Kanon's richest, most full-blooded work to date . . . [He] has mastered the art of the historical thriller.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Disturbing and hypnotically readable, Alibi is a mystery, a love story, and a work of philosophy--and a perfect companion for the thriller reader who wants a philosophical challenge, as well as entertainment.” ―Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Joseph Kanon is a specialist in superior historical thrillers. . . . Moody, deeply atmospheric, and as labyrinthine as the streets of Venice.” ―The Seattle Times
“Alibi is a thriller with a slide-rule perfect plot. . . . Wholly engrossing and one of the finest thrillers you will read this year--up there with the classics of the genre.” ―The Daily Telegraph (London)
“If you want to explore life, love, death, beauty, and moral confusion--all glimpsed from a gondola, so to speak--you won't do much better than this.” ―The Washington Post
“Once again Kanon has written a novel set against the backdrop of World War II that is evocative and sensitive, moody and thought-provoking.” ―Arizona Daily Star
“Alibi is an absorbing and fast-paced book.” ―New Mystery Reader Magazine
“Kanon keeps us turning pages. . . . His best book yet.” ―The Winston-Salem Journal
“Kanon juxtaposes a powerful love story and a gripping thriller against a palpable historical moment. . . . The novel holds us completely, with its vision of a sadly inadequate hero striking deep at our worst fears about ourselves.” ―Booklist
“You will admire this book for its descriptions of the theatrically beautiful Venetian cityscape and for its engrossing rendition of the city's postwar hangover-party mood--plus the inclusion of a cracking good murder mystery.” ―The News & Observer
“Extraordinarily well-crafted and well-written . . . Kanon's storytelling talents for intrigue may be unparalleled.” ―Deseret Morning News
“Kanon offers such vivid sensory detail that a reader emerges as steeped in atmospherics as a seasoned diplomat with a passport full of visa stamps. You feel initiated, as if you've been let in on some dark and well-kept secrets from some of the twentieth century's most pivotal moments. . . . In Kanon's eclectic cast of policemen, soldiers, revolutionaries, and ex-pat socialites, no one is spared the deep, dark smudges offered by war and its aftermath.” ―Baltimore Sun
“If you want to explore life, love, death, beauty, and moral confusion, you won't do much better than this.” ―San Jose Mercury News
About the Author
Joseph Kanon is the author of three previous novels, The Good German, Los Alamos, and The Prodigal Spy. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a book publishing executive. He lives in New York City.
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Although I have enjoyed several of Kanon's other books, this one is extremely tedious, to the point of being irritating. Perhaps it is a failed effort at character development, but none of the characters is sympathetic, especially the "heroine" introduced near the beginning of the book, who starts well but then devolves into such hystrionics and obsessive behavior that she (and the book) loses all credibility. The premise of the book is interesting, but the execution leaves much to be desired. Kanon seems to specialize in historical fiction, especially the period in the immediate aftermath of WWII, and this book fits in that genre, but I advise you to skip it and read The Good German (much, much better than the movie, despite its talented cast, which changed the story in ways that detracted markedly from the original) and/or Leaving Berlin instead.
For many of us, whose parents and grandparents were European immigrants, survived the war and lived in these very circumstances, novels like this provide a small window into their psyche and experiences. They personally never talked about any of this, so for me, this is the only way I can begin to understand their extraordinarily complex lifes.
As an aside, Kanon's descriptions of Venice are wonderful; having been to Venice, this was an added highlight of the book!!
Adam, an American soldier, has been hunting nazis, and comes to Venice at the urging of his mother, who has returned to resume her pre-war life, that of a wealthy socialite. But she is attracted to an Italian doctor who has perhaps been helping the Germans during the war. Thus Adam sets out to prevent what he sees as his mother's potential marital mistake.
Meanwhile, Adam meets and falls for a young Jewish woman who claims this same doctor killed her father during the war by sending him off to a concentration camp.
These complicated relationships lead to a disastrous confrontation, a murder, and the consequent investigation by the Venetian police. Mix in the war-time partisans, and Kanon's plot becomes a real winner.
The writing is excellent, precise and powerful. Kanon has a very direct style, not wasting time or words on superfluous descriptions. Yet we feel very intensely the mood of of the city, the dampness of the canals, the stones and bricks, the divergent areas of the city, the contrast between a deserted ghetto and St. Mark's Square. It is far from a travelogue, but as the story unfolds we feel we are there, in Venice.
A minor concern for me is the striking similarity between the plots of 'Alibi' and 'Istanbul Passage'. (See separate review.) But both are excellent novels and are highly recommended.