Italian-American Carla Ferrari, a former police officer, the daughter of a police officer, is a private investigator in Boston, in the U.S, in Edited Out, Book Two in the Murder in Boston Series. She has the P.I.'s requisite quirky, mouthy receptionist. She also has a close-knit Italian-American family, and a hunky on-again-off-again boyfriend. There is a growing genre of book that has all these elements, providing an ethnically flavored crime-romance-comedy for fans.
Carla could easily be a male character considering all the tropes surrounding her.
She has: "...an obsession for justice that made law enforcement her only source of fulfillment."
And she has a very cool car: "a 1953 silver Alfa Romeo Disco Volante"
And a dog name Como, after the crooner Perry Como.
But she is described as: "...the gorgeous blonde with long legs and a body like a Playboy pin-up..."
The humor in Edited Out comes mostly from the characters of Carla's mother and Carla's sassy, stupid yet loyal receptionist. Lots of Italian words and culture and food fly about those two characters, and among the families and the Italian community. Some people might consider the characters stereotypical, others might find them realistic, but they are flat characters, mainly there to provide some lightness to the story.
Carla's overprotective and intrusive Italian-born mother has the juiciest dialog in the book:
You know, Carla, Cousin Joe still has a job waiting for you at the mortadella factory. All you got to do is say the word, and you can get a job like normal people.
And Carla's relationship with her mother provides some tension in the story:
She'd rather explain to the Pope why she didn't go to mass for ten years, than explain to her mother why she wasn't going to be able to make dinner...
The one element that seemed out of place is the vulgarity in the Italian-born mother's speech: she calls men "hanging provolone". Inexplicably, Italian mom hasn't taught her daughter that "cannoli" is plural, and "cannolo" is the singular for the dessert.
There is a grittiness to the story, too, with death, widows, cops, and dark Boston settings, not to mention the main character's grief about her breakup with Nick Calvi, a homicide detective.
Carla knelt down to see the remains of a once vibrant young man, someone who lived, loved and then died on a cool, spring night in Boston.
At its best moments, the writing is reminiscent of Elmore Leonard or Robert B. Parker or Raymond Chandler. Imagine a depressive Humphrey Bogart, with his wiseacre receptionist, and the crying female client who walks into the office. Set them all in Boston, and lace the dialog with Boston slang. But don't forget that Humphrey is a woman in this P.I. series.
The writing is not always consistent, however, seemingly a blend of the Noir P.I. style and the cozy murder mystery style with the narration in 3rd person limited. The details of the criminal case become swamped by the cozy fun, and Carla's work is not always as sharp as one would expect from a former policewoman.
But if you enjoy an Italian-flavored cozy mystery with a kick-ass female protagonist, then you might enjoy Edited Out and the Murder in Boston Series.
Oh, I can't forget to mention that this book has a contender for the worst sex scene in a novel, not explicit, but certainly dressed with the oddest dialog, which I can only hope is an attempt at humor by the author:
Love me, Nick. Love me like bread. Tear me to shreds and consume me.
From the book's description:
When writer Dennis Carson buys a gun and goes missing, his wife Laura hires P.I. Carla Ferrari to investigate. After Dennis turns up dead in Boston Harbor, Detective Nick Calvi of the Boston PD joins his ex-lover Carla on the case. What was Dennis Carson working on and what did he discover that marked him for death? From the author of Al Dente: a Murder in Boston, and the Silent Chanteuse, Cynthia Westland brings you her latest murder mystery; Edited Out.
Book One in the series is Al Dente: A Murder in Boston.
In this book, the reader becomes part of the story as Private Investigator Carla Ferrari and Boston Police Detective Nick Calvi uncover a series of clues to solve three twisted, diabolical murders. During their search for the killer, Nick and Carla reignite an old romance that's been smoldering just beneath the surface. Three wealthy women, all in good health are designated by the medical examiner as 'cause of death undetermined.' Every step that sends Carla and Nick into the dangerous world of a serial killer moves them closer to their personal destinies. Unmask the killer and solve the mystery of the three dead women and choose the ending to the story.
Here are direct links to the two books in the series so far, at Amazon.com:
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.