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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Murder in 19th Century Sicily

I had very high expectations for No More Brothers, the second in a series by Susan Russo Anderson.  The description provided by The Bookplex was intriguing.  I pounced on it as soon as I received the e-book.


This mystery has a great deal of potential.   I was certain that I would love a novel in which a 19th century Sicilian midwife solves a murder.  The background of the period with riots and peasant uprisings makes it sound fascinating.  I hoped that the author would weave a colorful and complex tapestry that would include these dramatic events.  Unfortunately, Susan Russo Anderson would have needed more space to truly immerse us in the period.  No More Brothers is only a novella.  This made it a quick read, but it seemed superficial.

I did like Serafina Florio, the central character.  I also appreciated the fact that the author lets us know what sort of relationship she has with characters as they are introduced, and a bit about her history with them.  This allowed me to read the book without confusion even though it is the second in the series. Yet characters and relationships are not portrayed in depth.  I think I would have been interested in seeing more of Rosa, the former madam, who is Serafina’s friend. Characterization is another aspect that suffers at novella length.

The mystery itself seemed rather ordinary.  The resolution was rushed and the motivation of the perpetrator was given short shrift.  This book really needed to be a novel in order to maximize its impact.


                                                         Sicily in a State of Chaos

There were references to a great deal of social ferment which was relegated to the background in  No More Brothers.  I conducted some searches in order to find out more.

I consulted a Wikipedia article on The History of Sicily which stated that the city of Palermo revolted in 1866 the year before the events of this book.   The Making of Italy 1856-1870 by Patrick Keyes O'Clery contains a chapter on this revolt.  It can be downloaded for free on Google Books for those who want to pursue this topic further.  There were many issues involved in all the unrest.  One issue that caught my attention is that Sicilian peasants who fought for Italian unification expected that the land would be re-distributed to them rather than remaining in the hands of wealthy landowners. Sicilians in that period were also upset about high taxes and high prices. 

I still want to gain more of an understanding of what was happening in 19th century Sicily.


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