This book is delightful; set in warm, sunny Sicily, and is a welcome antidote to the doom and gloom of some Scandinavian crime fiction.
Auntie Poldi, real name Isolde, has moved from Germany to be with her sisters-in-law in Sicily. She is a colourful character, reminiscent of Dane Chandos’s Abbie. She always wears a wig, is addicted to wine and to men in uniform. She takes her nephew under her wing – and he is the one telling the story.
Auntie Poldi has a devoted slave, Valentino. When he is missing for two days Poldi becomes seriously worried and goes around the neighbourhood, making enquiries, thus introducing the inhabitants of the area to the narrative. Eventually she reaches a run-down estate with a stone archway which features a stone lion.
When she goes down to a deserted beach for a swim she is horrified to discover Valentino’s body. Cradling his cold hand, she makes a promise to him, to seek his murderer. She calls the police, and eventually meets Montana, a dark and brooding Sicilian with a gleam in his eye. They set about detecting in their own separate ways, but come together in a wild affair. Altogether, with the other aunts acting as a chorus and the vivid backdrop; we have the setting for a detective story with a difference, albeit one that moves at a leisurely, yet lively pace, with satisfactory twists and surprises.
The translation is excellent, and, in spite of frequent descriptive touches, flows effortlessly. This is the first appearance of Auntie Poldi in English, and I hope there will be more.