Alibi: A Novel

Alibi: A Novel

3.2 15
by Joseph Kanon

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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

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Joseph Finder
Venice, the ancient city-state so renowned for conspiracies and assassinations, where out-of-favor doges were blinded over live coals and bodies strung up between the ''fatal pillars'' of the Doge's Palace turned red from blood, was largely spared the bombing of the last world war. It was never a center of wartime intrigue. Yet Kanon has chosen Venice as the unlikely location for his latest novel, Alibi, and it turns out to have yielded his richest, most full-blooded work to date.
— The New York Times
Patrick Anderson
What do we make of all this? I have a friend who reads thrillers not for their plots but for their "atmospherics," and I think she would probably love Alibi. For my part, I think Kanon writes gorgeous prose and creates intriguing characters, but this time he has given us a story that is a bit overwrought. Still, if you want to explore life, love, death, beauty and moral confusion -- all glimpsed from a gondola, so to speak -- you won't do much better than this.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
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 naOve group of wealthy people out of touch with the postwar world's reality. Agent, Amanda Urban. Author tour. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Adam hopes that in Venice he'll leave behind the horrors of World War II, but falling for the Jewish Claudia makes him confront the complicity of those around him. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Venice-just after WWII-full of charm and romance, secrets and lies. Adam Miller, newly discharged from the U.S. Army, joins his mother, newly arrived in Venice. She's taken a house on the Grand Canal. Both are at loose ends-Grace because it's in her nature to be that way, Adam because the war and its aftermath have unsettled him, left him emotionally wary. At a party, however, he meets lovely Claudia Grassini and plunges into a passionate affair with her. The attraction is mutual, but Claudia is a complex woman with a painful, embittering history. She's an Italian Jew the Fascists sent to their pet concentration camp at Fossoli, where she knows she should have died along with all the others. The fact that she didn't has burdened her with survivor guilt. Meanwhile, Grace has romance in her life, too. His name is Gianni Mangioni, a doctor, an aristocrat and an old flame. In the years between the wars, they were part of a circle of friends who romped together the way only the rich and privileged can. But Adam doesn't trust Gianni, senses something bogus about him, wonders what he was up to when the Germans were in Occupation. Until his discharge, Adam was an intelligence officer and war crimes investigator in Berlin, and he decides to make a project out of Gianni, a decision that opens Pandora's box with a vengeance: people die, lives are ruined and Adam finds himself confronting excruciating choices-not only the one between justice and legality, but the rarer, more subtle, harder one between justice and morality. Interesting characters, an affecting love story and a strong plot that unfortunately sags midway. But Kanon (The Good German, 2001, etc.) is a true talent: eventually, he mightwrite thrillers as impeccable as Graham Greene's. Author tour

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Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt

From Alibi:
The whole room gleamed with gold, dimming now, people hushing, the orchestra starting. Something moved over my finger and I jumped-Claudia's hand, reaching over just to touch.
She didn't turn her head and I saw that her eyes were shiny, her whole attention given over to the music. Now I heard it too. Rodolfo's love song, so beautiful that it seemed no one could have written it, just found it, floating somewhere above the ordinary world. If this was possible, anything was. I looked down at her hand. We could be happy. Why shouldn't it work? Gianni was gone and we had an alibi. The Germans had gotten away with murder, the whole world. Even in Venice, as beautiful as the music, everyone had an alibi, somewhere else when the air raid sirens covered the sounds of people being dragged off. I didn't know. I didn't realize. I had my own life to consider. And, of course, everyone did.

Meet the Author

Joseph Kanon is the author of three novels, The Good German, Los Alamos, and The Prodigal Spy. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a book publishing executive. He lives in New York City.

JOSEPH KANON is the author of the novels Alibi, The Good German, Los Alamos and The Prodigal Spy. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a book publishing executive. He lives in New York City.

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Alibi 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Muggsy More than 1 year ago
The Alibi, by Joseph Karon, is a morality play set in an historical mystery. The setting is Venice one year after World War II has ended. Like a Michael Dibdin mystery, Venice is corrupt, but with a working purpose. Tourists must be attracted back to a beautiful and safe city which is putting out the message they didn't really get involved in the war enough to worry about ex-nazis and fascists lurking around. Unfortunately, the main character, an ex-GI war criminal research analyst, doesn't get the message, and looks for collaborators around every corner. He settles on one who is engaged to his widowed mother, happily renting a very nice house in Venice, and the plot spins on from there. Murder is done, and Karon sets up the plot as a question of whether or not the killing is justifiable since it involves someone suspected of collaborating with the nazis. The reader is left juggling a combination of beautiful and historic Venice with the question of whether or not good people should be caught and punished for killng a suspected collaborator. Other innocents get caught up in the plot, some pay a terrible price while completely innocent, and everyone seems to know what is going on, but nobody wants to get at the truth. The tension is fierce. I could not put this book down and finished it about 3 o'clock in the morning. A great read to say the least, and Karon's best book by far.
A retired history teacher
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kanon brings Venice to life. I could nearly smell the canals, and hear the water lapping against the sides of the buildings. He is sensitive to the little subtlties in the relationships between people, and his characters are well drawn. But it takes him forever to say what he has to say. At one point I checked the number of pages in the book, thinking that a sharper editor would have tightened it up to half its length. This book would make a good movie, cast with lots of beautiful people, one of those European spy things where the viewer isn't quite sure what is happening, but is happy going along for the ride. 'Gondola ride, in this case'. This is a book that promises much and leaves the reader disappointed by the end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading the Alibi, I was dissapointed with the overall structure of the story and subsequent developments. I felt many parts of the book that focused on the human aspect were predictable and not realistic. As for the setting of the book, I think Kanon did a good job of describing post war Venice and many of the attitudes and feelings that lay just under the surface. Overall I felt that this particular story did not complement the writer's obvious skill when comparing with past books such as the Prodigal Spy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a weak follow-up to Kanon's 'The Good German.' Whereas the earlier book is filled with depth and narratives of significance, 'Alibi' is an overwrought pot-boiler with cliches instead of moral dilemnas and an unrealistic, far-fetched plot. Try again, Joe.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Protagonist Adam Miller, a former U.S. investigator of war crimes, opens his story by saying 'After the war, my mother took a house in Venice.' That she did and, to a great degree, was able to carry on as if World War II had never interrupted her life. She resurrects her relationship with Dr. Maglione, and joins the whirl of wealthy expatriates who seem to believe it has always been carnival time in Venice. Miller comes to Venice to visit his mother, hoping to forget the atrocities that have become so familiar to him. For a while, it seems that Venice has remained untouched by war. It's as beautiful and mysterious as ever. He does suspect that Dr. Maglione is more attracted to his mother's checkbook than to her, but there is more to come. Often alone, Miller meets Claudia, a Jewish woman who has been deeply scarred by the war, not physically but psychologically. They fall in love. All is well until she meets the good doctor and accuses him of having collaborated with the Nazis. When a murder occurs Miller is forced to examine what he really believes is right and wrong, who is telling the truth and who is being deceptive. Venice is a particularly appealing backdrop for this part mystery, part love story, and all intriguing novel. Holter Graham provides a splendidly controlled, always articulate voice performance of this arresting portrait of postwar Venice. - Gail Cooke
harstan More than 1 year ago
By 1946 still horrified by what he has seen, former U.S. Army war crimes investigator Adam Miller travels to Venice to see his widowed mother Grace. To his surprise the city is like a beautiful oasis in war ravaged Europe unscathed by the horrors that Adam has seen especially in Germany. --- Adam meets Italian Jew Claudia Grassini at a party. They fall in love and begin an affair. However, Claudia spent time in the Fossoli concentration camp, leaving her feeling guilty that she lived while so many others died. While Adam courts Claudia, Grace is seeing a pre war lover aristocratic Dr. Gianni Mangion. Adam does not trust Gianni sensing something sinister perhaps involving the Fascist years. He begins investigating his mother¿s lover and soon murders occur ultimately leading to the good soldier Adam choosing between justice and the law with either selection further devastating his already weakened inner soul. --- ALIBI is a terrific historical tale that uses war crimes, a murder mystery, and a romance to tell the tale of Post WWII Venice. The story line is fast-paced and action packed never slowing down for a moment. However what makes this thriller so chilling and thrilling is the deep cast. Adam, Grace, Claudia, and Gianni, supported by the grand city and residents trying to heal, are fully developed characters that bring home the era. The audience receives a fantastic novel that showcases Joseph Kanon¿s skills.--- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author describes vivid pictures of the setting - Venice after WW II. He proceeds to paint descriptions of characters through dialogue. The murder takes place. That's it. However there are still 200 pages left!
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AtoZNY More than 1 year ago
This about sums up my feelings about Alibi---who cares! The characters are cardboard and this reader felt no connection with any of it. If you want to read about Venice, just pick up any of Donna Leon's Brunetti series---at least there, you care about what happens to the people involved in the story.