“Maria Grazia Swan has got it down cold in her debut novel LOVE THY SISTER: Clean prose and a well-oiled plot make for a compelling read. Couple that with a striking mix of locale and believable personalities, and you have a book you’ll be telling your friends about pronto.” — Noreen Ayres
Reviewed by Jude Morris, co-moderator EPPRO (Electronically Published Professionals) In Love Thy Sister, Maria Swan’s fascinating characters, and the fast pace of this absorbing novel will keep you reading nonstop to the end. Mina, Swan’s intriguing heroine, is a charming mix of child and woman, and the complex relationship that exists between Mina, and Paola her elegantly beautiful elder sister is both captivating and puzzling. To complicate matters, Paola’s husband Michael has taken a mistress, and Mina’s love affair with a poetic wanderer is challenged by an attractive young man whom Paola has hired to get to the bottom of some thefts at her software manufacturing plant. Cheating, lying, stealing and murder — Love Thy Sister is a fast paced, challenging mystery that will keep you turning those pages right up to the startling denouement.
Reviewed by Ted Wilkinson
What would it be like to leave the mythical world of small town Italy, and take up with an estranged sister who has been mysteriously absent in the States, pursuing the “good life” of entrepreneurship and romance since before you took your first steps across your parents floor? Readers of Maria Grazia Swan’s maiden voyage through the artistic form of full length novel, will be left with little doubt until Mina Calvi, protagonist in question, begins to doubt it herself. But just what is it that this sensuous Italian woman, with a flair for black leather jackets, and old worn out sweat shirts, is led to call into question? With a woman’s intuition that with each twist of the plot, seems to re-generate the story with even greater depth and proportion, Mina Calvi prophecies and protagonizes like a present day Joan of Arc. And like the Patroness of France, she relentlessly pursues justice in the face of the maddening crowd with the feminine and lion like presence of a gypsy fortune teller come sweeping across the seas to foretell the fall of the house of Davies to the degenerate Californian marketing lords of software and soft spines in a jungle of deceit and betrayal stretching all the way from the Mediterranean to Paola and Michael Davies home in [Orange County]. But what is it that seems to be slipping away through Mina’s fingers? Anything and everything.
Michael Davies, gold digger, and husband to co-protagonist Paula Davies, (the sister of Mina Calvi,) is disabled by a “bad heart”. (The symbolism here, as elsewhere, is direct, unambiguous, yet subtle enough to draw the reader in without that lingering bad aftertaste of another trek through all night diners, bloody floor tiling, and mysteriously vanishing story line.).
This is not to say that Ms. Swan’s story doesn’t have all of these elements common to almost every detective novel, and more. It is to say that these recurrent elements only augment a truly perennial and universal story, spoken in an unmistakable language, for it is the language of two sisters, facing the absurdity of their situation, and trying to piece together out of the broken fragments of their past, some kind of meaning to their existence. Sometimes in English, and sometimes with a refreshing departure into Italian. But we all speak the same language when we arrive at the core of our innermost self. It is a self that is lost in a search for meaning. That is what Ms. Swan’s style is shot through and through with. Meaning in a meaningless jungle of corporate brutality, violence masquerading as true love, and underworld pimps, dressed up as warehouse workers. What is she trying to tell you? Another way of putting this is “why is Mina Calvi, with each passing phase, becoming less and less grounded in herself? Why are her surroundings becoming consistently less and less familiar to her? Why has plot and purpose seemingly vanished from the story of her life?”
Ms. Swan achieves true greatness in her work, in that, through the disintegration of everything around her protagonist, we are left with a question and an answer. What happens when all of the things that we thought really mattered are violently torn away from us? The answer? Well, I won’t spoil it for you.
Reviewed by Kathryn Lively
Of all things American, the work ethic is most lost on young Mina, a transplant from Italy sent to live with her older sister, Paola, in California. Why Paola continues to pour her heart into a software business that lately seems to yield only frustration is baffling to Mina. Paola’s philandering husband and work partner is not shy about his womanizing, employees are hardly loyal, and inventory is disappearing. It is no wonder Mina prefers a sedentary life, free to dream of a handsome, far-away Frenchman who writes words of love on lavender stationery.
The mysterious death of an employee at Paola’s business does little to diffuse tempers at home and at work, and Mina is less than amused when talk of poison, intent, and murder implies Paola as a prime suspect. Though no accusations are made directly, Mina is sparred into action to aid Detective Di Fiore and Paola’s personal investigator, Brian Starrs, in confirming Paola’s innocence in any wrongdoing.
Then Paola is found dead, presumably by her own hand. A devastated Mina is soon forced to shed all immaturity to prove otherwise, that Paola was murdered and that somebody at the software company is responsible. This task uncovers more than Mina expects, as a history of deceit is unraveled to the point that her questions are answered only with more questions. Only her love for her sister can sustain Mina through these trials.
With Love Thy Sister, author Swan gives mystery lovers a story that will not disappoint. Injected with a touch a romance and moments of levity that do not dampen the tension of the mystery, Sister is well written, dramatic, and a treat to read. Swan creates in Mina a somewhat spoiled but likeable heroine, a well-rounded gem in a cast of amusing stock characters (the sleaze ball husband, the man-hungry receptionist, etc.) Swan is one author for mystery fans to watch in the future.