Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
Mario Giordano (translated by John Brownjohn) (Bitter Lemon Press, £8.99) Auntie Poldi is a stroppy Bavarian with a lust for traffic policemen in sexy uniforms. When her handyman is murdered with a lupara, she resolves to find his killer. Is it the Mafia, the aristocracy or a bent thief of architectural antiquities? Actually, this novel— apparently the first of a series of ‘humorous crime stories’—is more a description of Sicily, its character and its food. Enjoyable, beautifully written and doesn’t strain itself in translation.
Lying in Wait
Liz Nugent (Penguin, £12.99) Liz Nugent’s second novel is superb. Set around Dublin, it involves two traditional Irish families, one grand Establishment, the other poor but—mostly—upright. They’re linked by murder and sex. The author brings in the country’s history of mistreatment of pregnant girls and wives plus its underlying snobbery and pretensions. The plot is fast and gripping and the ending tragic. Highly recommended.
The Salt Marsh
Clare Carson (Head of Zeus, £18.99) The author’s father was an undercover policeman, so this thriller about a girl with a spook father is authentic. Sam, the heroine, can’t trust anyone, from the friendly hitman to her boyfriend. Even her mother sends coded notes as Greek recipes. Excellent on paranoia and the atmosphere of the eerie saltmarshes, but the plot is so tangled, I don’t think I ever unravelled it. Personal note: I wish fictional heroines didn’t have boys’ names. It’s so confusing. to dig deep into the islands’ darker side for the answer. My only complaint is that the denouement is only given in the last 17 pages.
Black Water Lilies
Michel Bussi (translated by Shaun Whiteside) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £12.99) Set around Monet’s lily pond at Giverny in Normandy, the plot revolves around three women: a young girl, a pretty schoolteacher and an old widow. This is a very French novel, complex and intricate. I fear it’s also a great swizz, with an infuriating denouement. After more than 300 pages, you realise you’ve been utterly fooled.
Sidney Chambers and the Dangers of Temptation (The Grantchester Mysteries) James Runcie (Bloomsbury, £14.99) Six separate mysteries, from a happy-clappy cult to a sinister look at life in Communist East Germany. James Runcie manages to reveal much about the life of an archdeacon and his friends in a mix of different situations—the Newmarket races, Test cricket during Apartheid, attempted murder by cows— without once compromising his questioning prelate or gentle style. Perfect for TV, better still to read.
The Secrets of Wishtide
Kate Saunders (Bloomsbury, £14.99) The first in a series of whodunnits featuring 19th-century lady detective Laetitia Rodd. Victorian mysteries are not my favourite genre, although this one is good at thoroughly uncovering the grimness of being a gentlewoman down on her luck and the unmentionable behaviour of apparently happy families. Set in Lincolnshire and London, it’s a morass of crooks, mistresses, vicars and murderers.