From The National Post, April 30, 2015
Caterina Edwards’s The Sicilian Wife (Linda Leith Publishing, 354 pp., $19.95) is another intriguing genre-mixer. The tone is firmly noir, but this mafia thriller devotes a significant number of pages to the main character’s childhood and adolescence in 1960s Sicily. Fulvia is the daughter of a Mafioso, and her early life is a long house arrest. Part of this novel is an immigrant story where escape is more important than nostalgia, in which characters avoid the past instead of longing for it.
As the investigative angle begins with a corpse discovery in 1989 Italy, Chief Marisa de Luca tries to do her job while encountering daily, casual discrimination from the male cops around her. She has to deal with this condescension despite having made her bones in a long undercover operation that brought down key Mafioso and garnered her copious negative attention from the mobsters she hasn’t yet imprisoned.
The Canadian connection is introduced gradually. Mafia daughter Fulvia is revealed to have made her escape, and settled in Edmonton. Sicily beckons her back violently when her husband is killed and torched there, left to be identified by his bridgework. De Luca’s investigation and her own obligations to the living and the dead force Fulvia to face her past again, and to acknowledge that her ultimate attempt to escape could never completely succeed.
The novel is ambitious, flitting between different timelines and allowing the story of Fulvia’s past to inform and enrich de Luca’s investigation. For the most part, these different threads are well-balanced, making The Sicilian Wife a crime novel with a real depth of character and place.