Crime

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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.

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