The first of a trilogy, the Savone Sisters’ debut novel, Giacomo’s Daughter, gives a gripping portrayal of a young Italian Mafia wife swept into a dark criminal underworld by a volatile mobster during Prohibition in the vibrant Detroit, Michigan.
Max Denaro is a top guy in the most powerful Italian Mafia family called the Scalici Squad. So whatever Max wants, he gets. And the notorious Detroit mobster wanted Sofia Spera since he first laid eyes on her singing her heart out on stage at the grand opening of the Book-Cadillac Hotel.
Once married to the mob, nobody, including her over-protective father, Giacomo, can keep her safe from the life-threatening danger that comes along with being Mrs. Denaro. To stay alive, Sofia must use the only weapons available during the Roaring Twenties - her smarts, sexuality, and stellar aim. But, in doing so, Sofia also ignites the infamous Detroit Mob War.
After some heavy foreshadowing of the eventual showdown between Sofia and Max, the novel flashes back to the night they met and explores the events that lead to their rendezvous, including double-crosses, jealousy and conflict with Sofia’s friend Irene, and a secret pregnancy. The drama, wreathed in the smoke from guns and cigarettes, feels straight out of a classic film. So does the dialogue, which sometimes incorporates awkward eye dialect for lower-class Italian-Americans (“Butta the missus is-a beautiful”). The conceit of the Denaros telling each other their recollections leads to sections of summary and intrusive narration (“Sofia explained what she meant by her seething retort to Max with a new story”), and Sofia’s naïveté can feel at odds with her thoughtful feminist analyses of cultural issues.
The Savones effectively show the challenges facing women of the era, and their depiction of Sofia’s innocence and fear makes her eventual claiming of her power all the more effective. This is a vivid portrayal of a world “built around man’s convenience and on the backs of women’s free labor” and the women determined to make their own way within it.
Takeaway: This Prohibition-era story will satisfy noir fans who want to cheer on a woman’s quest to escape abuse and claim her power.
Great for fans of Renee Rosen’s Dollface, Judith Mackrell’s Flappers.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: C