The Murder Mystery Genre is one that adheres to many stereotypes, but this book is so different it takes a page before the reader can understand how the story will take shape. The nameless narrator is the nephew of Auntie Poldi (otherwise known as Isolde Oberreiter), telling the story.
Isolde meets and marries Giuseppe in Munich, living happily together until Pepe dies. His widow decided to return to Sicily where Pepe had grown up, and “drink herself comfortably to death with a sea view.” She was now aged sixty and had three sisters- in- law for company. They wanted her to live near to them, but Poldi needed her independence, and that sea view. Poldi was described as a glamorous figure, stylish but a little overweight.
This is a strange beginning for a murder mystery, but gradually, the plot unfolds. The sheer delight in reading about the characters, Auntie Poldi’s wit and the sea views makes this difficult to put down. A young man, who had helped Poldi move into her house, has gone missing. We discover that Valentino has been a reliable and steady worker, so his absence is remarkable. One evening, Poldi goes for a walk down the beach and discovers his body. She relates the story to her nephew, sparing no detail as to the mutilation of Valentino’s face (blown off by a shotgun). Her behavior, which was to sit and hold his cold hand for a while, then go through his pockets, seemed normal to her.
Our heroine had a Police Chief for a father, and is not daunted by violent death or death threats. She begins to explore the case and meets the local Commissioner of Police, Montana, who has charge of the case. They combine their knowledge and develop a relationship which Poldi is anxious to escalate.
Her cleavage ensures the lonely Montana is ensnared, and although they work separately, when they do combine information, the perpetrators are seriously threatened. During this time, Poldi meets and makes friends with other interesting characters. Valerie lives in a dilapidated Sicilian house from the eighteenth Century, introduces Poldi to a different social group. Again, there are richly described characters introduced.
As Poldi finds more clues and moves closer to finding the truth behind the young man’s death, she finds a cat with its throat cut outside her house; a clear warning to her. The climax of the story comes when she has the information to accuse the murderer, but wants to set a trap, She invites the man to her home and has a tape recorder under the table. This is fast moving and exciting reading, and, while the reader is hoping for a way out the situation gets worse.
This story is fascinating in its treatment of wonderful warm, real characters, but it is also a feast for the senses. The visual description of the sea, Mt Etna, the beaches and pollution, is captivating. Poldi is such a realistic character, with her love of alcohol, young men in uniform, and considers her age is no barrier to style.
There is also a most interesting aspect to the story, which talks about the archeology of the area, and thieves who plunder things such as mosaic floors and sell them to wealthy people to install in their homes such as The Sicilian lion being removed from a building it has guarded for hundreds of years.
The best news is that this is the first book of what will be a tremendously popular series.
|Publisher||Bitter Lemon Press|
|Distributor||New South Books|