The Hope Diamond is book 1 in Julie Sarff's Sweet, Delicicious, Madness Cozy Mystery Series. I've read all the books in this Kindle e-book series. It is pure, silly, fanciful fun.
The protagonist of the series, U.S. ex-pat Lily Bilbury, narrates her adventures in northern Italy, where she lives in a small town on the shores of Lago Maggiore. Her scatter-brained, fantasy-filled, very funny ramblings describe the adventures of Lily, and her two best girlfriends, and an assorted group of extras, as they attempt to deal with the problems and mysteries that their lives throw at them.
Lily's mind works in mysterious ways, as you can see from these two quotes from book 3:
The Christmas Tree, I swear, is so large it looks like it gave birth to the one in Rockefeller Center.
He tries, but I don't let go. I am like the woman who pushes a car off a baby. Adrenaline courses through every inch of my body, and Enrico cannot break free.
Books in the Sweet, Delicious, Madness Cozy Mystery Series:
- The Hope Diamond
- The Heir to Villa Buschi
- The Treasure of Croesus
- The Knotty Bride
The characters are varied and realistic. The depictions of fame and the famous on ordinary people ring spot on. And the accurate descriptions of Italians of all stripes speak of personal experience, not of cliches.
My only reservation is that books 2 and 3 don't quite make a full story; hopefully the author will package all the books together in future.
The books are less mystery and more humor books and contemporary romances, chick-lit, than mysteries. The mysteries in the books are devices to get Lily into odd situations. The book designs are lovely, outside and in.
The story that evolves over the books is Lily's love life. Her marriage to an Italian man falls apart. She begins to develop interest in other men. All does not go smoothly, to say the least. Throw in a handsome Hollywood actor and his lakeside villa, and you get some crazy romantic adventures, at least in Lily's mind. Some of the funniest ramblings by Lily relate to her "relationship" with the superstar stud.
The author is wonderful at setting up comic set pieces. I thought her funniest sequence was in a Swiss hospital in book number 3, when Lily is given a relaxant to calm her anxiety after a car accident, but the drug has hallucinatory consequences. She becomes convinced that her doctor is Swiss tennis star Roger Federer. So, naturally, she attempts to pluck his uni-brow into two respectable eyebrows, with bloody results!
I know from personal experience that all the European references in the book are spot on. For example: the mistrust of Germans by all non-Germans, contempt for all one's nearest neighboring countries, a conviction that the Euro currency has ruined the quality of life. And the many references to daily life in northern Italy ring true. They bring a real local flavor to the story, especially the very accurate depictions of Italians at all levels of society.
If you enjoy books in a first-person, rambling style, lots of humor, clean romance, light mystery, with a strong dose of local Italian flavor, then the Sweet, Delicious, Madness Cozy Mystery Series is for you.
This Indie-Author is creating a quality series of entertaining, light reads, with stunning covers. Sample them at Amazon.com, and see what you think.
Here is a direct link to the first book in the series at Amazon.com:
If you are interested, here are links to videos of the northern Italian lakeside villas: Villa D'Este, and Villa Carlotta.
This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.