Posted: August 31, 2011 in Italy, review

Anna Pavesi is a 38 year old psychologist living in Medieval Upper Bergamo near Milan, with only her cat Morgana, and her elderly downstairs neighbour Signora Ghislandi for company. She is short of money after her divorce, and the inadequate and late payment she receives from local co-operatives for her work with addicts. Therefore when wealthy upper class Benedetta Bellandi Serzoni offers her a healthy cheque to investigate the strange disappearance of her half sister Patrizia Vitali’s body from its coffin she reluctantly accepts. Benedetta never knew her half sister, but was arranging the re-internment of Patrizia’s coffin in the family vault when the small excavator smashed the lid, and it was discovered that the coffin was empty. Anna is not a detective, but thinks that if she studies Patrizia and the life she lead before the dreadful hit and run accident that killed her she will find an answer.

Anna travels to Vittuone, west of Milan, where the hit and run occurred, and there she finds a one meter ninety tall  doctor, danger and Una Piccola Storia Ignobile.

Blood Sisters is Alessandro Perissinotto’s first book to be translated into English by Howard Curtis who does a very good job, although I do prefer the Italian title. Blood Sisters is the first in a trilogy of novels featuring  psychologist Anna Pavesi, the others being The Last White Night, set during the Turin Winter Olympics, and The Titanic Orchestra. There is a lot of more information about the author’s career, books, literary prizes etc at his official website

When I hear the word literary I may not quite release the safety catch on my Browning, but I do look around for the charity book bag. But in this case Blood Sisters was given to me by Maxine of Petrona so I knew it would be a very good read, and it was. Thanks Maxine. 

The book is written in a first person narrative which starts with Anna digging in the countryside near Vittuone for a body, and then goes back to remember the events of the previous ten days. The male author certainly seems to pull off the difficult task of putting himself into the mind of a  female character.

The plot is fairly simple, with just a few twists and turns, but it is Anna’s personality, the humour, the wonderful characters, the descriptions of the industrial Po Valley near Milan, and the social commentary that makes Blood Sisters such a great read. We are given a real taste of Italy with its funicular railways, industrial estates, medieval towns, restaurants, multiculturalism, delicious food, smart cars, beautiful women, unfaithful husbands, football and Italian mamas. 

…..and dialed my mother’s number. ‘Hello.’ I said.

‘Nice to know you’re still alive,’ she retorted, without giving me the chance to continue. ‘Assuming you are alive: there are dead people who communicate with their loved ones at seances more often than you do.’

I shall definitely be on the look out for the sequels, and can highly recommend this book, which once again as with a lot of Italian crime fiction packs a lot  more into 253 pages than many a 600 page door stop. 

‘Do you have many foreign workers?’ ‘They are all foreign. But not European. I mean not from the European Community or whatever they call it now. I have a few Belarusians, a few Moldavians, a few Albanians, but most are Moroccans.’

But being an Italian book it considers not only society’s problems, but Stefano, Anna’s her ex-husband’s fanatical love of football, and the other two Italian obsessions.

‘Me, too. Then, when I got to thirty, I suddenly changed my mind, and now I love soups and broths. We change with time.’  I could have told him that there was just one taste men never lost, their taste for twenty year olds. 

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – Thanks for this excellent review. The little snippets you’ve shared show the sense of humour in this novel. That plus the mystery and characters is enough to get me intrigued! All that and some sound social commentary, too. My TBR list is not going to be happy about this, though *sigh*…;-)

  2. Maxine says:

    So glad you liked this one, Norman. It is always a bit nervewracking recommending or even sending unsolicited a book to a friend! But I hoped you’d like it. I thought it a neat little book, and am glad to read there are more on the way. Good on the small press, Hersilia, for publishing this.

  3. Norman says:

    Maxine, I loved it. Thanks again. I had about a dozen more snippets I thought about quoting, but did not want to give away too many spoilers.

    Margot, it was as Maxine said a “neat little book”, and with an irresistible blend of Italy, sex, food, mystery and humour.

  4. kathy d. says:

    Of course food. How could one even conceive of a book written about Italians without food being on a level with Vivaldi, especially written by an Italian — although Donna Leon does a pretty good job herself on this score.
    This sounds like a good book, will add to the totally out-of-control TBR Italian Alp.
    Now to worry if my library will carry it since they enacted an austerity budget, which I think totally omits international crime fiction, translated books anyway, except for Scandinavians and Fred Vargas.
    If I could speak or write Italian, I would say I’m wringing my hands (in Italian) over this library situation.

    • Maxine says:

      Hersilia Press have recently been offering to send books to US/Canadian reviewers, Kathy, if that helps. I think she is @Hersilia_press on Twitter. I posted the offer on FF a day or two ago.

  5. kathy d. says:

    Oh, nice. Thank you. Will check. I’m not on social media, being the Luddite I am — the computer is enough. But I’ll find a way to check on this. And Book Depository and Amazon and Abe Books are always good to check. I just found some used Katherine Howell books on Amazon and Abe Books.

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