(Liana Levi, 160 pages, 2019)
Ironic, feminist, delightfully unpredictable. —Le Figaro
In a Grenoble hospital, Leone Acampora, a local mafioso, has slipped into an irreversible coma. His devoted wife, Michèle, has been notified that the end is near. She now sits by his side, reflecting lovingly on their forty-five-year marriage. All in all, it was a good one, during which she fully enjoyed the advantages, and to a lesser degree the incidental unpleasantness, of being married to the mob. Besides, she has been an exemplary and loyal wife—at least as far as her husband knows.
But Michèle is in for a rude awakening. The comatose Leone left her a letter graciously informing her that he has no intention of traveling solo in the afterworld, but she should not worry. He has taken care of everything. The hit man he hired assured him that her death would be painless.
Michèle is not the type of woman to die without a fight. She is determined to live, and after failing to solve the problem on her own, she calls her two daughters to her rescue. The three women are now engaged in a race against time. They must identify the hit man before he finds his prey.
Dina and Alissia are well aware of their father’s line of business, but each has responded to it differently. For Dina, it has been a struggle. It is not easy to wonder, every time a bank is robbed, whether your family is involved. To assuage her guilt, Dina chose a career in humanitarian aid, and now works for an NGO called Major Emergencies. At this time, though, she is in a state of heightened vulnerability, unhappy in love and disillusioned with her job.
Contrary to Dina, Alissia has fully embraced her father’s legacy. Initially she intended to become a paramedic, but she wisely shifted to another specialty. No more fishy pizza parlors for laundering money. Now she owns a respectable pharmacy, the perfect cover for behind-the-counter activities. She even developed her own approach to cope with the stress of the job. Cultivating a serene mind is crucial when one deals kilos of hashish and cocaine, and when one is facing a new wave of competitors treading on her turf.
Alissia thus takes the initiative to send her mother to a remote villa in the mountains while planning her transfer to a more secure and permanent location. But, self-confident by nature, she fails to take into account that Leone possesses one crucial advantage: He is a father well acquainted with his two daughters’ strengths and weaknesses. And he knows that Dina is the weakest link.
With Mafiosas, Pascale Dietrich offers a refreshing take on the mafia story. Her choice of setting departs from the genre’s convention; we discover a grittier Grenoble, with its drug-invested low-income high-rises set against the majestic backdrop of the Alps. The three protagonists, each in her own way, subvert the roles they are expected to play. Michèle will not be a passive victim. Alissia uses this crisis to redraw the rules. She will not let her future be dictated by aging godfathers playing cards in retirement homes, nor be passed over for leadership because she is a woman. As for Dina, who has always felt oppressed by the omerta, the rule of silence, transgressing the old ways will take another turn. Subtly feminist, Mafiosas is a delightful read, laced with sardonic humor and peppered with memorable scenes.
Pascale Dietrich is a writer and a sociologist. She has published short stories in magazines as well as short novels exploring the thriller genre, such as Le Homard (Éditions In8, 2013) and Une île bien tranquille (Liana Levi, 2016).