Book covers


Gianrico Carofiglio: The Silence of the Wave.

Bitter Lemon Press, £ 8.99,  ISBN 978-1908524-232.

Career advice is always dangerous but if Pedro Almodovar does not make a film of ‘The Silence of the Wave’ he will definitely miss a trick.  This unusual novel is the fifth by Carofiglio to be published by Bitter Lemon Press in the UK.   Carofiglio is a bestselling and award winning crime writer, which probably explains how the author writes with such confidence and audacity.  ‘The Silence of the Wave’ has a fine opening sentence that refers to a character that we do not meet properly for at least another fifty pages.   Throughout, the author is willing to defy the restrictions of genre.  The crime when it occurs is very dark but only a modest event in the novel.  The solution requires a routine investigation by Roberto, the policeman and central character.  Nevertheless, it provides a climax that supports the rest of the book and makes the dovetail in the plot fit tight. 

The main tension within the book, though, is derived from how the scarred characters will develop.  Both have been shaped by a guilt ridden past and we are soon anxious about their brittle state and fate.   Roberto and Emma, the girl he admires, have made sacrifices but others have paid a price. Roberto understands that we survive because there is something called identity.  But it exists only because we remember what we would rather forget.   ‘So it goes’ as Kurt Vonnegut used to say.   Life is not easy and who knows how and why we should prevail.   The book drifts between reality and dreams but that is not because Carofiglio is a fantasist like Almodovar with optimistic faith in the eccentric.  In ‘The Silence of the Wave’, the oddness of what happens is important because it reveals how guilt that haunts will always blur the distinction between dream and reality.  Indeed, a dream of a child is important to the resolution that emerges.  The finale means an opportunity for the characters to perhaps build again rather than a solution to a puzzle. 

In ‘The Silence of the Wave’, the characters act as doubles for each other. Roberto and Emma realise that they both used to be actors.  Roberto and Giacomo have lost a father while the psychiatrist of Roberto and Emma is also estranged from his son.  Despite their similarity, all are obliged because of loss and guilt to be remote from each other.

Gianrico Carofiglio was an anti-Mafia prosecutor and, although he is not a realist like the great George V Higgins, the emphasis on dialogue offers comparison with the other famous prosecutor turned novelist.  Care is taken to reveal the tortured past of Roberto but there are also wry moments when Roberto remembers odd satisfying incidents that feel as if they have been taken from the archives of real police investigations and polished.   And the book is a fabulous read.    The translation is first class, which is as it should be, because ‘The Silence of the Wave’ is a crime novel of genuine literary quality. 


Howard Jackson