Joseph Kanon’s Alibi is set in 1946 Venice. I’ve been to that fabled city and through his descriptions I saw it again, careworn through time, yet timeless.
American Adam Miller has left the US Army and is visiting his widow mother who has returned to Venice. He used to interrogate German war criminals but is now retired.
Kanon’s style sucks you into the first person narrative with ease, and all the while you're sensing with disquiet that something momentous is about to happen: in page 9 Adam meets the beguiling Claudia Grassini, who has an uncomfortable past and a reputation; and by page 24 they are lovers. His mother is going to marry Dr Gianni Maglione. Apparently, there’s a connection between Claudia and Gianni – involving her father’s death during the Nazi occupation – and this taints their relationship.
As the tagline – ‘Murder has its price – and so does the perfect alibi’ – and the blurb forewarn us there will be at least one murder, the reader is expecting it, and when it comes it’s grim stuff, realistic and brutal. Yet it doesn’t occur until page 146 (in a 400 page book). From that moment on, the tension builds, a cat-and-mouse affair with the local police and vying guilt and conscience.
One review on the book cover calls this a thriller, but it doesn’t have the pace of a thriller. It’s more of a psychological suspense novel about morality, justice and insidious unexpected consequences.
A fine twist ending, too.