For me, vacations and mysteries go together like bagels and lox, so as I was preparing to spend a week in Florida last month, I decided to try out a couple of new series.
It’s always fun to find an author with a big backlist you can jump into if you get hooked, so I started with Murder in the Marais (1999), the first in Cara Black’s series of Paris mysteries featuring private investigator Aimée Leduc. The scenery is great, and Aimée’s impressively tough, but the book made me face the fact that I don’t have much of a taste for the hard-boiled.
Then I picked up Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, which was so un–hard-boiled that you could practically get food poisoning, but in a good way. Written by Mario Giordano, a German writer whose impressively Italian name was bestowed by his Sicilian-immigrant parents, it’s about a German widow who moves to Sicily to be close to her late husband’s family and is narrated by her nephew, who’s visiting from Munich. Here’s how he begins: “On her sixtieth birthday my Auntie Poldi moved to Sicily, intending to drink herself comfortably to death with a sea view.” How can you resist a voice like that? Of course, life intervenes, and Poldi soon makes herself at home in the small town of Torre Archirafi—and when Valentino, her adorable handyman, goes missing, she sets out to find him. She’s helped by the usual assortment of quirky characters, including Commissario Vito Montana of the local police, who can’t resist Poldi’s charms even though his relationship status is “complicated.”
Auntie Poldi earned a starred review when it first appeared in English in 2016. At that time, it was distributed in the U.S. by a British press, Bitter Lemon, but it’s now been picked up by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which published it on March 6 with a lot of fanfare. Here’s hoping that the three further volumes Giordano has already written get translated soon. Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.