Thursday, May 3, 2018

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano

[Trans. by John Brownjohn]

Rating: 3 & ½ Stars

Auntie Poldi is newly transplanted to Sicily from her native Munich. Despondent from the recent death of her husband and several financial setbacks, Poldi has decided to drink herself to death. And she has chosen Sicily as the perfect backdrop for her demise. The mystery begins when her young handyman is found with his face nearly blown apart by an old mafia-style weapon. The only problem is that there aren’t any Mafiosi in Giordano’s modern Sicily. But even if there were, Poldi is not the kind of woman to back down from them.

Auntie Poldi is an unconventional detective by any consideration. A grieving widow with a lust for life and a weakness for handsome policemen, she lurches around Sicily in a regularly inebriated condition. Still, she always has enough clarity to ask the right questions; and the chutzpah to bother the wrong kind of people with her relentless demands for answers. Grief and depression always loom in the background of her mind. Nevertheless, Poldi has a vitality that has her greeting life with her usual, “Namaste!”

Perhaps like me, you too have bought into the clich├ęs about Italy and the Italian people – their joie de vivre, love of famila, love of food, their dramatic flair,  and, the ardor of their romantic affairs. Well, make no mistake about it; this book continues to perpetuate all those stereotypes. Reading this novel has left me craving marzipan, and Sicilian style almond-milk.
Poldi is assisted in her investigations by her quartet of helpful in-laws; and her sounding board is her nephew who is wrestling with himself to conjure up a literary masterpiece that seems a strange hybrid of ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ and ‘Odyssey’. This nephew also does double-duty as the first-person narrator of this novel – an unwieldy and needless technical device. The climax is unabashedly deus ex machina. But these minor flaws aside, the book is an undemanding charmer; its most winsome attribute being its eccentric, loveable heroine. Namaste, Poldi!