Book Review: Auntie Poldi and the Lost Madonna (Auntie Poldi #4) by Mario Giordano

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: May 18th, 2021
Pages: 352, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

There’s only one Auntie Poldi: bewigged, cursing in Bavarian, and knocking back a wee shot of grappa as a pre-breakfast aperitif . . . or is there? No one is as they seem (and sound) in this hilarious new mystery featuring Sicily’s sultriest sleuth.

Strange dealings are afoot in the Apostolic Palace—a nun leapt to her death shortly after participating in a seemingly routine exorcism. But when a priest clad in Gammarelli and a Vatican commissario with an almost unholy level of sex appeal turn up at her door, Poldi is shocked to hear that she’s a suspect in their case.

Who is the woman being exorcised, and where has she disappeared to? And why in the world does she claim, in perfect Bavarian, to be Poldi, Isolde Oberreiter, of Torre Archirafi?

Poldi will need all the help she can get to clear her name, but her nephew has been distracted by a love affair gone sour, someone in the town has been spraying graffiti death threats on her front door, and her local friends seem to be avoiding her. And even Vito Montana balks when Poldi discovers that the case hinges on a lost Madonna statue, stolen years ago from the pope himself.

Forza, Poldi! With a pair of mysterious twins dogging her every move and a mandate to maintain sobriety, will Poldi be able to find the lost statue in time, and survive her sixty-first birthday?

Poldi’s nephew is back from the City of Lights and once again takes us on a rollicking ride, propelled by the (somewhat plausible) adventures of his sexagenarian Sicilian-Bavarian sleuth, Auntie Poldi. Take one beehive wig, a liter of grappa, a dash of Baron Munchausen, and a cup of Auntie Mame, and you might just end up with Poldi.

Auntie Poldi and the Lost Madonna begins with an exorcism, where the possessed claims to be Poldi. Soon after, one of the nuns who witnessed the exorcism plunges to her death. Poldi sneaks in to the Vatican to investigate, and uncovers an unholy conspiracy. Encounters include the Pope, twins in fluorescent sneakers, a doppelganger, and, of course, Death and his clipboard.

Poldi’s nephew’s character growth continues, as does his attempt at writing a novel of his own. Given the plotline of that, you do have to wonder how many of the embellishment’s to Poldi’s stories are from Poldi herself.

We also learn the history of the Sad Signora.

Poldi and Vito team up in this latest outing, and their relationship is forever altered. As in the preceding novel, Auntie Poldi and the Handsome Antonio, the Lost Madonna has several red herrings, and Poldi must face her past in order to save her future.

The writing, as always, is exquisite. I don’t know how much to attribute to Giordano, the author, and Brownjohn, the translator, but between the two, they produce magic. Go be mesmerized by Poldi.

Highly recommended.

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