From the bestselling author of Los Alamos and The Good German comes a riveting tale of love, revenge and murder set in postwar Venice
It is 1946, and a stunned Europe is beginning its slow recovery from the ravages of World War II. 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. Nothing has changed in Venice-not the beautiful palazzi, not the violins at Florian's, not the shifting water that makes the city, untouched by bombs, still seem a dream.
But when Adam falls in love with Claudia, a Jewish woman scarred by her devastating experiences during the war, he is forced to confront another Venice, a city still at war with itself, haunted by atrocities it would rather forget. Everyone, he discovers, has been compromised by the Occupation-the international set drinking at Harry's, the police who kept order for the Germans, and most of all Gianni Maglione, the suave and enigmatic Venetian who happens to be his mother's new suitor. And when, finally, the troubled past erupts in violent murder, 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?
Using the piazzas and canals of Venice as an enthralling but sinister backdrop, Joseph Kanon has again written a gripping historical thriller. 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.
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Very skillful at the creation of finely nuanced characters and their relationships to one another and at evoking mood and ambience of locale within which they live. Plots are subtle and challenging, and are developed within a credibly recreated historical context. My only niggling complaint is that where so much of the story is carried forward by the verbal exchanges of the characters, more care could have been taken to make it immediately clear what words are attributable to whom, particularly where several characters are together, engaged in multilateral conversation.