THE WINE-DARK SEA by Leonardo Sciaseia


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For some bizarre reason this collection of 13 tales by Sicilian-born novelist Sciascia (Candido) is being presented as a gathering of his ""best detective stories""--when not a single story here involves a detective, when only a very few of these fall into the mystery/crime/suspense genre even at its broadest."" End Game"" is the one genuine suspense item: this taut, shrewd dialogue between an intended murder victim (a cool older woman) and a hired killer (a youngish school-teacher) recalls James M. Cain at his niftiest. Elsewhere, there are trace elements of crime fiction--in stark or ironic vignettes from Mafia history, in musings on a 16th-century murder. For the most part, however, these stories (originally published 1959--1972) are brief, sharp studies in Sicilian culture, strong on religious/political overtones. In the title piece, an engineer from northern Italy travels by rail to Sicily--in the lively, edgy company of five Sicilians (including one precocious/impossible child). In ""The Test,"" Sicilian peasant girls are recruited for semi-skilled labor in Switzerland--by a Swiss/German who finds the whole milieu so ""primitive."" And other tales focus on Catholic/Communist fanaticism, the macho terror of cuckoldry, anticlerical fury (in a folkish parable), and fierce family pressures. Not for mystery readers, then, but a slim, modestly intriguing collection for those interested in Sciascia's socio-cultural territory.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1985
Publisher: Carcanet--dist. by Harper & Row