Home > 2010, 21st Century, Crime Fiction, Gallmeister, Italian Literature, Polar, Pulixi Piergiorgio > The Island of Souls by Piergiorgio Pulixi – Perfect crime fiction in my book

The Island of Souls by Piergiorgio Pulixi – Perfect crime fiction in my book

January 30, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Island of Souls by Piergiorgio Pulixi. (2019) French title: L’île des âmes. Translated from the Italian by Anatole Pons-Reumaux. Not available in English.

The Island of Souls by Piergiorgio Pulixi is a crime fiction novel set in Sardinia. I bought it at Quais du Polar after a panel about crimes set on islands. The authors were David Vann, Susanna Crossman, Piergiorgio Pulixi and Patrice Guirao. I liked the idea of showing that islands don’t always rhyme with paradise.

The Island of Souls is the first book featuring the two detectives Eva Croce and Mara Rais. They have just been assigned to set up the first cold case unit of the Cagliari police. It is not a promotion.

Eva Croce is a transfer from the Milan police. Sardinia is a demotion for her, after a screw-up, her divorce and another personal drama. She arrives on the island, bruised and battered. One day at a time, one foot before the other is her survival attitude. Her first meeting with Mara is frosty.

Mara was also set aside from her team after her divorce. Her ex-husband used his connections to get to her professionally and her prickly attitude fueled his claims.

So, our two detectives set their office down in the musty archives department, where all the documentation on their cases is stored. Their first case is the ritual murders of women spread over several decades. It is an obsession for their colleague Moreno Barrali, who is terminally ill. Eva and Mara have to get as much information as possible about the murders before he dies. They know that the commissaire Farce asked them to look into it to keep them occupied and out of trouble but also to indulge Barrali, who is well-respected.

Eva and Mara meet with Moreno and dive into the case. And then Dolores Murgia goes missing.

The police eventually find her body, murdered according to the same ritual. The cold case merges with a very hot one. Eva and Mara will work with the investigation team.

All these women are killed according to a religious ritual that goes back to the ancient Nuragic civilization, the oldest one on the island.

It is still alive through their descendants, the Ladu clan. They live off the land in the mountains. Their leader is Bastianu, who is taking over his dying grandfather, Benignu. They live according to clan rules and they worship a goddess according to an antique cult. And Bastianu has a problem: they are facing a severe dry, the harvest isn’t good and the sheep cattle is impacted too. According to ancient rules, it means that the Goddess expects the sacrifice of a young woman…

But the Nuragic civilization is also alive through the neo-Nuragic cult, a group of people who reenact the Nuragic religious customs. Needless to say, the police is suddenly very interested in their activities…

The Island of Souls is exactly what Touch and Go isn’t. It is literary crime fiction. It is engaging. It is educational. As a reader, I wanted to know more about Eva and Mara’s pasts and I enjoyed watching their interactions and the building of their work relationship. The investigation wasn’t straightforward, leading the readers to dead ends, progressing in zigzags as the police know more about the victim and the neo-Nuragic group. In parallel, we have Bastianu, who faces the worst dilemma of his life. And I kept wondering if the stories were indeed parallel or if their path would intersect at some point. And on top of the stellar characterization, the excellent plot, you have a breathtaking description of Sardinia.

It’s my perfect crime fiction combo. Literary, unusual, intelligent and with a great sense of place. Pulixi disoriented me and I didn’t guess the ending.

A terrible Translation Tragedy for you, anglophone readers as it’s only available in French and Italian. Gallmeister has branched out of American literature with Italian literature and it’s a success!

PS: Diana from Thoughts on Papyrus hosts an Italia Reading Challenge and I decided to join her as I enjoy Italian literature very much.

  1. January 30, 2022 at 11:08 am

    Ooooh, that sounds tempting for Corylus! Let me see…

    Like

  2. January 30, 2022 at 1:26 pm

    Great review! This is a new to me author and it is indeed a pity that it is not available in the English translation. In the past I did read some Italian crime fiction such as by Andrea Camilleri and Leonardo Sciascia, but am yet to try an author from Sardinia. The Island of Souls appears refreshingly different and all the references to the Nuragic civilization sound so fascinating.

    Like

    • January 30, 2022 at 11:25 pm

      It’s an excellent book. Let’s hope it gets translated into English.
      I really enjoyed the cultural references.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. January 30, 2022 at 4:11 pm

    This sounds such a fascinating and entertaining read. I don’t think I’ve read anything set in Sardinia before. Here’s hoping Marina Sofia can persuade Corylus!

    Like

    • January 30, 2022 at 11:31 pm

      Let’s hope it makes it into English! I really like crime fiction that are so well written and with so many cultural references.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. January 30, 2022 at 6:54 pm

    I see that another title, The Night of the Panthers, has been translated into English, by Europa Editions as one of their World Noir series. So we may expect more.

    Like

    • January 30, 2022 at 11:32 pm

      Great news. This one might be translated soon, then.

      Like

  5. January 31, 2022 at 2:45 am

    This does sound excellent – perhaps there’s hope that it will make it into an English translation if Europa has published another one as Guy says. Great review too!

    Like

  6. January 31, 2022 at 10:09 am

    You have to love literary crime fiction but doesn’t anyone anywhere ever ritually sacrifice old men.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 31, 2022 at 10:48 am

      Well, I’m not a specialist of ancient civilizations but they do have an unfortunate propensity to sacrifice young women to the gods and not old men. Sadly.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. January 31, 2022 at 8:39 pm

    This sounds like such a thoroughly satisfying read: I can see why you enjoyed it so much!

    Like

    • January 31, 2022 at 9:53 pm

      Yes! It’s made of short chapters, with a steady pace and it was engrossing.

      Like

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