Winner of the Hammett Prize
It is 1946, and Adam Miller has come to Venice to visit his widowed mother and try to forget the horrors he has witnessed as a U.S. Army war crimes investigator in Germany. But when he falls in love with Claudia, a Jewish woman scarred by her devastating experiences during World War II, he is forced to confront another Venice, a city still at war with itself, haunted by atrocities it would rather forget. Everyone, including his mother's suave new Venetian suitor, has been compromised by the occupation, and Adam finds himself at the center of a web of deception, intrigue, and unexpected moral dilemmas. When is murder acceptable? What are the limits of guilt? How much is someone willing to pay for a perfect alibi?
Alibi is at once a murder mystery, a love story, and a superbly crafted novel about the nature of moral responsibility.
It's late 1945 at the start of this atmospheric historical thriller, and G.I. Adam Miller, officially assigned to ferret out Nazi war criminals in Germany, joins his widowed mother, Grace, who has recently arrived in Venice from New York to resume her life as a wealthy American expatriate. Together, they flow into the social eddies of the upper class, determined to pick up where they left off in 1939. Grace has met an old flame, Gianni Maglione, a distinguished doctor whom Adam suspects of gold-digging. Meanwhile, Adam himself meets Jewish Claudia Grassini, who survived the Nazi pogroms by becoming the mistress of a powerful Italian Fascist. The novel's languid pace picks up when Claudia meets Maglione, whom she accuses not only of being a Nazi collaborator but also of having condemned her own father to Auschwitz. Further complications arise with the appearance of Rosa, an Italian operative and former partisan. Kanon (The Good German, etc.) keeps his complex plot--involving murder, elaborate alibis, false accusations and a web of secrets spinning back to the war--on track, although the various entanglements aren't always neatly unraveled. Adam and Claudia's love affair provides the requisite romance, but there's no sense that they find much to like in one another. More interesting is Kanon's portrait of a pathetic and hopelessly na?ve group of wealthy people out of touch with the postwar world's reality. Agent, Amanda Urban. Author tour. (Apr.)
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Henry Holt and Co.
May 14, 2006
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