A Walk in the Dark, By Gianrico Carofiglio

Guido takes a giant leap for justice
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Guido Guerrieri, that intrepid Cavafy-reading advocate practising in Bari, surprises us yet again, not just because here for once is an Italian character who loves hypermarkets, but by taking on an impossible case and a murderous adversary.

His partner, Margherita, is an example in feats of courage, set on gaining her parachuting licence under the instruction of two lesbian aeronauts. Guerrieri is scornful, "the lesbian licence, that's what they want you to take," he says. But the truth is, of course he's terrified of the big jump himself.

Scary, too, is the leap he has to take, into prosecuting an academic stalking a woman who comes to Guerrieri after other lawyers turned her down. Professor Scianatico is the son of a highly-placed judge, and the woman he's pursuing has an unfortunate history of psychological problems, which makes it even harder to plead her case, so easy it is for Scianatico to argue that she's a hysteric.

As Guerrieri puts his case together, he encounters an intriguing character – the most un-nunlike Sister Claudia, who runs a refuge for abused women. She defends them in a very physical sense, being an expert in "wing tsung" – a devilish oriental martial art which enables her to throw powerful young personages around in unarmed combat.

The essence of it is that you have to do exactly the opposite of what your opponent expects, a maxim which our lawyer applies to his court case. By bringing all his client's psychological problems out in open court, he takes the wind out of the opposition's sails.

But his troubles aren't over, for Scianatico is a determined and brutal control freak who is not going to allow his victim to escape.

By now, the big jump that Guerrieri is facing is taking on yet another layer of meaning, for he meets up with his old friend – indeed, practically his only friend – Enrico, and hears his wife has died of a cancer that ravaged her just a few months, and he is overwhelmed by the fragility of life.

Carofiglio plunges us even deeper into the sense of life's capricious cruelty by intercutting Guerrieri's story with flashbacks from the childhood of an unknown character – a raped and brutalised little girl who fought back and paid the price. Finally, Sister Claudia steps in once more, flexing her steel muscles to good effect. The tables are turned and the Scianatico family is destroyed.

Guerrieri has won through, but he must face the final test of courage – can he go through with the parachute jump?