The Sicilian Wife

Caterina Edwards

April 2015

The Sicilian Wife is both a literary novel and a mystery. Fulvia, the Mafia Princess, must be a dutiful daughter or the family will be dishonoured. Though she eventually escapes and makes a new life in Canada, she is betrayed and then her husband is murdered on the Sicilian coast. The police Chief investigating the case is Marisa, who faces a station house of skeptical men as well as confronting Fulvia’s uncle, the boss of bosses. 

Interweaving folk tales, classical allusions, and recent Italian history with the conventions of the detective story in this powerful new novel, Caterina Edwards uses the literary noir to question the very possibility of justice and free will.

Caterina Edwards has published six books, which have garnered major awards and critical praise. Her first novel, The Lion’s Mouth, was translated into French and Italian, as will her non-fiction book, Finding Rosa. Her radio drama The Great Antonio was chosen to represent Canada in an international radio competition, and a collection of critical essays on her work was the first book published by Guernica Editions in its series on Canadian writers.

Although she has lived most of her life in Alberta, Caterina has consistently spent time in her mother’s homeland of Italy. These long visits have shaped her concerns. She often writes about immigration and identity, the collision of multiple selves and cultures, private memory and public history, here and there. In 2016, Caterina was inducted into the City of Edmonton’s Cultural Hall of Fame.

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What they say

INTERVIEW: Caterina Edwards on the French translation of The Sicilian Wife

It’s been almost five years since the publication of your novel, The Sicilian Wife.
How does it feel to see the French translation appear?

The publication of The Sicilian Wife in French as L’Épouse Sicilienne has been an unexpected blessing. It feels like an accomplishment, even though the accomplishment is that of the translator, Joanna Gruda, not mine. My first book, The Lion’s Mouth, was also published in French, as La Gueule du Lion in 2000. But this publication feels more important than that one did, perhaps because the gap between the launch of the English and French books then was longer: eighteen years.
Read more.
January 2020, Accenti Magazine

National Post: December 2015
The best 99 books of the year
55: The Sicilian Wife, Caterina Edwards 
Set in the contrasting climates of Sicily and Edmonton, this literary noir is a masterful tale of family, murder, and the inescapable pull of the past.

National Post: April 2015
Crime pays off, for readers anyway
Caterina Edwards’s The Sicilian Wife is another intriguing genre-mixer. The tone is firmly noir, but this mafia thriller devotes a significant number of pages to the main character’s childhood and adolescence in 1960s Sicily. Fulvia is the daughter of a Mafioso, and her early life is a long house arrest. Part of this novel is an immigrant story where escape is more important than nostalgia, in which characters avoid the past instead of longing for it.
As the investigative angle begins with a corpse discovery in 1989 Italy, Chief Marisa de Luca tries to do her job while encountering daily, casual discrimination from the male cops around her. She has to deal with this condescension despite having made her bones in a long undercover operation that brought down key Mafioso and garnered her copious negative attention from the mobsters she hasn’t yet imprisoned.

The Canadian connection is introduced gradually. Mafia daughter Fulvia is revealed to have made her escape, and settled in Edmonton. Sicily beckons her back violently when her husband is killed and torched there, left to be identified by his bridgework. De Luca’s investigation and her own obligations to the living and the dead force Fulvia to face her past again, and to acknowledge that her ultimate attempt to escape could never completely succeed.
The novel is ambitious, flitting between different timelines and allowing the story of Fulvia’s past to inform and enrich de Luca’s investigation. For the most part, these different threads are well-balanced, making The Sicilian Wife a crime novel with a real depth of character and place.

Publishers Weekly: April 2015
"Edwards brings to life complex charaters" 
Edwards (The Lion's Mouth) brings to life complex characters in a mystery that intricately weaves Mafia intrigue with stories of family and romantic relationships that span two continents. In Sicily in the 1960s, Fulvia Arcuri, a young daughter of a Mafia kingpin, struggles with the pressures of duty and traditions in her conservative Sicilian family. Following several failed attempts to escape her controlling relatives, she secretly falls in love while studying law, but must renounce the relationship in dishonor when her partner's family rejects hers. She eventually escapes to Alberta, Canada, where she builds a new life, marries, and renounces her previous life. But her past is revived when her husband is murdered in Sicily.

Marisa De Luca, the police chief investigating the murder, is struggling with her own history, and she must contend with the dangers of investigating the Mafia and fighting the prejudices of the male dominated precinct she commands. When the investigation takes Marisa to Alberta, she collaborates more successfully with Italian-Canadian police sergeant John Buonaiuto. Edwards builds a rich and complex story, moving smoothly between past and present and between Italy and Canada. She develops characters and story lines independently, and then connects them convincingly to build a credible and wonderful literary noir story of love, hate, deception, and revenge. 

"The Sicilian Wife is both a political thriller and an absorbing psychological page-turner. It is set firmly in Sicilian noir and yet travels a Canadian immigrant's dark childhood past. This is a novel, like Sicily herself: full of marvelous contradictions and beauty. Of course, I raced along with the police investigation. I enjoyed each Sicilian proverb and delicacy. But in its final pages I'm sure I could taste the sting in the Sicilian dust." —Peter Oliva, Calgary, Alberta

"A gritty, passionate novel, The Sicilian Wife unravels the complicated world of revenge and protection that is at the heart of the cosca, the spiky artichoke of clan that supersedes conventional law and order. In a shadowy web of lies and illusion, an Italian-Canadian exile and a determined Italian female police chief unveil a tangled lattice of cause and effect.    Imbued with tales ancient and modern, The Sicilian Wife gleams with silence, cunning, and courage. This is a brilliant portrait of the stuttering heart of secrets and sensuality." —Aritha van Herk, Calgary, Alberta

"In this riveting mystery, Caterina Edwards keeps the tension ratcheted high as she weaves together the tale of a Sicilian woman determined to escape the bonds of her Mafia father's criminal family and the puzzle facing a female police inspector charged with investigating two tragic deaths in Italy. A gripping read that will keep you turning pages." —Holly Robinson, author of Beach Plum Island and Haven Lake

"In The Sicilian Wife, Caterina Edwards has created a multi-layered, dark novel full of the heat and light of the Sicilian landscape in contrast to the cold Canadian urban winter. Out of each landscape the determined desires and destinies of two women cross: Fulvia the Mafia princess who has sought to escape and live in her own fairy tale; and Marisa the police chief who wants to shine cold light on the naked truth and unravel the complicated and compromised murderous past. A compelling read from start to finish. —Carmelo Militano, author of Sebastiano's Vine

"A Mafia princess. A charred body. Destiny. The literary noir of the year.”—Septimus Black

"Caterina Edwards's latest book is both an intriguing mystery and a sharp critique of how men often expect women to behave." -- Alberta Views, March 2017. 
June 6, 2015: This is why we need good reviewers in the popular press. Great to see Sue Carter's piece on crime fiction appear in Metro News across Canada--especially since it features Caterina Edwards's literary noir The Sicilian Wife
May 11, 2015: The 49th Shelf, wherein Caterina Edwards's The Sicilian Wife. is mentioned in the same breath as Elana Ferrante. 
April 30, 2015: The Edmonton Journal writes about Caterina Edwards and her terrific literary noir, The Sicilian Wife. 
January 9, 2017: Here's the podcast of Shelagh Rogers's Next Chapter interview with Caterina Edwards
December 1, 2015: Congratulations, Caterina Edwards!

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