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May 18, 2021

Auntie Poldi and the Lost Madonna by Mario Giordano ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

I discovered the Aunti Poldi series in 2019 when I picked up book 1 Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions on the discount rack. I read it in the pool that summer and was intrigued by it being a foreign language cozy mystery. I have read a few translated thrillers but most of what I come across is literary fiction. You know I love cozy mysteries and I was excited to see another culture's take on the genre. The book was a bit different and I had some trouble getting into it. For most of the book, I couldn't quite figure out if I liked it or not. But by the end, I had really come to like Auntie Poldi. So I was excited to see Auntie Poldi and the Lost Madonna at Netgalley.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Auntie Poldi and the Lost Madonna
May 2021; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 
978-0358251392; audio, ebook, print (352 pages)
cozy mystery
Somehow I missed books 2 and 3 in the series, but that didn't affect my enjoyment of this book. Only a year has passed since book 1 plus like any good cozy mystery, it is written as a stand-alone. 

Poldi is a widow who moves to Sicily from Germany in book 1. She plans to drink herself to death while enjoying the beautiful sea view. But she puts that goal aside when she gets involved with a mystery. By book 4 she has solved a few more mysteries and has made a name for herself. She also has a boyfriend and a few neighborhood friends. She feels at home and now she's re-thinking her plans. 

Perhaps because I was more prepared for the writing style, but I was immediately drawn into this story. I couldn't wait to see the trouble Aunti Poldi got herself into. And she does get herself in quite the doozy of trouble. 

The writing style is a bit different than other mysteries I read. Poldi is relaying the story to her nephew and he, in turn, is telling it to us. This makes following a timeline somewhat difficult so my advice is don't try to. Each chapter begins with a summary of notes:

"Tells of graffiti, start-ups, chakras, pirates, learning the sitar, uniforms, envy, and death. Sicilian summers bring out the abs and pecs, Poldi embarks on a spiritual journey, and her nephew is once more devoid of a plan. On the plus side, Poldi has taken in a new in-home helper with a cock-and-bull backstory. When Montana gets serious, she first develops cold feet and then received some nocturnal visitors." (chp 1)  

Sometimes they are confusing and sometimes they are amusing.

This is truly an international book. Giordano was born in German to Italian immigrants and now resides in France. The series is originally published in German. Yet, it is set in Italy. I have read a few books recently set in Italy and I think that I have a better understanding of the culture than I did when I read the first book so maybe that is why I enjoyed this one even more. 

I really liked the characters more, too. Auntie Poldi and Montana are great. I was glad to see their relationship has progressed as they were just getting to know one another in book 1. If you are looking for a fun book with older main characters then this is the book to read. Poldi definitely makes 60 look like the new 40. 

The mystery is interesting and so convoluted that I don't think it can be solved by the reader. This is largely due to the fact that Poldi is telling the details to her nephew so we don't always get the whole story as interruptions occur. Also, I think I'm sort of on the nephew's side with thinking that Poldi embellishes her stories. She is as colorful as the book's cover. I'm just not sure how reliable she is - I mean she sees and talks to Death.

The whole time I was reading this book I got the feeling that things were wrapping up - that maybe this was the last book in the series. So I was really happy to see that there is book 5 that was published last year in German. I will have to keep an eye out for the English version.

If you wish you were going on an international vacation but you are just taking a trip to the community pool this summer, take this book (or the whole series) with you for a great mental vacation. It is among the best escape reading that I've read recently.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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