The Past is a Foreign Country is a great little book about a guy who gets derailed on the way to a good life. Giorgio is a studious kid with a regular girlfriend and a potential career in jurisprudence ahead of him, when he meets a guy named Francesco and decides to go play some card games with him. Possessing the fastest pair of hands Giorgio’s ever seen, Francesco is a superb cardshark and a very good cheat, using his skills to fleece unsuspecting marks of millions. Giorgio gets seduced by the easy money and begins to hang out with Francesco more, which in turn triggers the demise of his relationship with his inamorata and his academic standing. His life slowly descends into a downward spiral of gambling, extortion and general depression, all because of his inability to turn down a request from Francesco. Things come to a head when Francesco bamboozles him into smuggling heroin from Spain to Italy, convincing him with this sophistry that if they didn’t do it, someone else would.
There is a parallel plot arc with a series of sexual assaults being reported at the same time, and no prizes for guessing who the perpetrator is. The tie-in at the end of both the main plot and the parallel subplot is executed flawlessly. The book is well written and hard to put down. It is not everyday that you get to read a book by a man who actually prosecutes members of La Cosa Nostra for a living, and we are the richer for Giancarlo Carofiglio‘s penmanship. All in all, an entertaining read, one you will probably enjoy if you like the crime genre.