Tuesday, April 2, 2013

ALIBI by Joseph Kanon

A post World War II novel set in Italy, ALIBI has a lot going for it, and a little that misses. As usual, Kanon is a master of dialogue, and every utterance hold weight and moves the plot forward, but sometimes I felt the speech was almost too real  (a lot of ellipses, laconic statements, and interruptions) and slowed things down. But it's minor quibble considering how good it can get at times. I could really hear the accents of our main characters, the American GI and the Italian femme fatale.

At the heart of ALIBI is a murder mystery, which is the genre Kanon excels at. Like his other books, The Good German and Los Alamos, the murders have something to do with American occupation during the war. And as usual it's up to our GI to solve the crime (which is pretty much revealed up front--it's the "why" we're searching for here). Naturally, I'm going to avoid any real plot issues here to keep the mystery fresh for you, but I will commend Kanon for being able to not just formulate an interesting crime, but set it to a backdrop which is pretty much unexplored in fiction. Again this is POST WWII, meaning the time after the war ended when these countries were rebuilding, which is a fascinating time filled with new governmental regimes, extreme poverty, black market crime, etc. Kanon really put work into researching this period. If nothing else, you'll feel like you're bopping around with some elite members of fictional society, going to parties, hiding in shadows, trying to figure out who's lying and who's just delusional.

While the end of the book left me satisfied, I felt the crime, once solved, was not as realized as in Good German or Los Alamos. But don't let that deter you. Those prior books were amazing, where as this one is darn good, and I encourage you all to give it a go.

A solid mystery, a great backdrop, and mostly exceptional dialogue.

3 OUT OF 5 Worms

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