To paraphrase an old Mae West tune we don’t hear enough anymore, I like a mystery writer who takes his time. Though Kingsley Amis once insisted that he wanted to read only books that began “A shot rang out!,” the renowned literary Brit might have made an exception for Gianrico Carofiglio. The author of the Guido Guerrieri legal thrillers — “Temporary Perfections” is the fourth — is as exacting, contemplative and sometimes downright poky as any crime writer I can think of. Yet when the Italian defense lawyer isn’t doing something, he is thinking, and what goes on in his doubt-stuffed head is nearly always captivating.
Forty-five and divorced, the one-time amateur boxer has a family consisting of his small law firm plus a former prostitute named Nadia, who runs a gay bar called the Chelsea Hotel. While Carofiglio’s narrative is never in any rush, he has a deft way of introducing characters with whip-quick descriptions. Consuelo, a lawyer on Guerrieri’s staff who was adopted as a child from Peru, has “a dark, chubby face, with cheeks that at first sight give her a faintly comical appearance.” Though when her “dark eyes stop smiling, they transmit a very straightforward message: The only way to get me to stop fighting is to kill me.” Nadia’s German business partner, Hans, “looks like a former shot-putter who quit training and took up drinking beer instead.” The grief-ravaged father of a vibrant young woman who has vanished wears an expression that “looked like a collapsing dam.”