Recommendation: Life is short, pick your absurd diversions wisely
Where to read: Beach reading for workaholic lawyers
Read with: This calls for an aperol spritz (like, quite a few)
In brief: This was not nearly as woeful as I was hoping. Was it good? Not by a long shot. Was it hilariously bad? Also no.
Appointment at Amalfi is an apt demonstration of the principle “less is more”. This is a book with literally every single conceivable pulp-drama device thrown in, including but not limited to:
- the broody, moody, mercurial artiste;
- the wife who sacrificed her career;
- the missionary;
- the ambitious journalist;
- the sleepy Italian hotel;
- the mafia family;
- the evil businessmen;
- the plot to ruin a film for financial gain;
- the highly-leveraged billionaire with grand ambitions;
- the dickhead newspaper editor;
- the skeezy, cheating boyfriend who works in marketing;
- the assassin;
- the henchmen;
- the tough-as-nails female litigator who remembers she has a soul;
- the affair with the wife’s sister;
- the elopement;
- the murderous plot;
- the alleged murder (unrelated to the aforementioned murderous plot);
- the trial;
- the boat wreck;
- the terminal illness;
- women who fall for superficially unattractive men because of their genius;
- ruminations on artistic merit;
- Roman ruins
and I could go on for an age if you let me… I know it sounds like I’m making this up, but I swear to you I’m not.
Despite this litany of literary cliches, it has its high points. It is, unsurprisingly, well written. It is also, very surprisingly, frequently funny – he’s clearly having tremendous fun throwing everything at the page and it shows. This sense of levity also takes the edge off the sheer absurdity of the plot. Indeed, the ludicrous list above should feel far more stuffed into 350ish pages than it does.
Honestly, this is the book you read because you’ve just discovered that a legal luminary writes melodrama in his spare time and, really, why not partake in the fun. This is no more absurd than anything else I’ve called “pulp” and a good deal better written than most.
But what the hell was that ending…