this is a book I borrowed off my father about 15 years ago, not sure of the actual age of the book. I've tried Googling but I've not been able to turn up anything that fits my memories.

The book starts with our protagonist being released from jail in (I think) America, he's sent to the city of Bologna in Italy to act as a spy.

He's married, however he ends up divorcing his wife in favour of a woman he meets in Italy.

The reason he's in Italy is to investigate a terrorist cell I think - a representative of this cell meets him toward the end of the book and believes he is turning traitor on his home country. Our protagonist says something to tip the guy off that he's not turning traitor, so he gets tortured, ending up losing two fingers.

I distinctly remember a chapter titled "Bolognia on a plate".


1 Answer 1


Partial match: The Broker (2005) by John Grisham.

From Goodreads:

In his final hours in the Oval Office, the outgoing President grants a controversial last-minute pardon to Joel Backman, a notorious Washington power broker who has spent the last six years hidden away in a federal prison. What no one knows is that the President issues the pardon only after receiving enormous pressure from the CIA. It seems Backman, in his power broker heyday, may have obtained secrets that compromise the world's most sophisticated satellite surveillance system.

Backman is quietly smuggled out of the country in a military cargo plane, given a new name, a new identity, and a new home in Italy. Eventually, after he has settled into his new life, the CIA will leak his whereabouts to the Israelis, the Russians, the Chinese, and the Saudis. Then the CIA will do what it does best: sit back and watch. The question is not whether Backman will survive, there is no chance of that. The question the CIA needs answered is, who will kill him?

What matches:

  • released in 2005, so fits with you having read it 15 years ago
  • guy taken out of jail and sent to Bologna specifically
  • he meets a woman he likes a lot, from this review:

    This tutor is a woman close to Backman's age whose husband is dying of cancer. Backman finds this woman fascinating, giving his life a new purpose that was missing before.

  • he's said to have a son, so I'm guessing he had a wife as well

What doesn't match:

  • the chapters don't appear to have specific titles
  • I can't find evidence of torture at the end, and it's not like the protagonist seems to actually know he's a "spy" for most of the book.

Found with the Google query book released prison spy italy bologna site:goodreads.com.

  • Funny what time does to memories - but having read the preview on your link it is familiar. Thanks!
    – Scoots
    Mar 26, 2020 at 9:56

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