Select one of the keywords
Alibi: A Novel    by Joseph Kanon order for
by Joseph Kanon
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Alibi, Joseph Kanon continues in the time period of The Good German, looking at the repercussions of wartime atrocities on individual lives in post World War II Europe. This time, he's moved from Berlin to Venice, Italy.

It's 1946 and Adam Miller has completed his service as a U.S. Army war crimes investigator in Germany. He wonders 'Does anyone really come back from the war?' and speaks of having 'to be brought up in stages, like deep-sea divers, to prevent the bends.' Adam joins his feckless widowed mother Grace in Venice, Italy, a place where she and his father spent many happy years. Now, she is seeing a great deal of a friend from the old days, the handsome, smooth Dr. Gianni Maglione. Adam is suspicious of his mother's suitor.

On the surface, Venice seems unaffected by the war, but Adam wonders. Then he meets and falls hard for Claudia, a Jewish woman who shows him a different, seamier side of the city. She speaks of the use of air raid sirens during the war to mask the rounding up of Jews. Claudia survived the Fossoli camp through the attraction she held for her jailer, who repeatedly raped her. She tells Adam 'You think you want to kill them all. Where do you stop? The guard who pushed the children on the train? Yes, him. Then why not the ones watching? Why not everybody? And then you're like them.'

When Claudia meets Gianni at a party, she recognizes him as the doctor who betrayed her and her sick father to the Germans. Claudia ended up at Fossoli and her father in Auschwitz. Adam uses his Army contacts, and their sources (who have ties to the Communists) to investigate. Events escalate and there's a murder. In clouded circumstances, influenced by the horrors he witnessed in Berlin and by Claudia's terrible story, Adam keeps trying to do the right thing, and gets more and more enmeshed, especially when he gets involved with a police officer named Cavallini, who's a great deal cannier than he seems.

Alibi reminded me a little of Crime and Punishment. In it, Joseph Kanon addresses the moral dilemmas of the aftermath of war (what were war crimes versus acts of human beings simply intent on survival, what is justice?) He also shows how the baggage people (often unfairly) carry can drag themselves down, and others with them. As usual Kanon gives us a historical that delves deep, one not to be missed.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Historical books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews