struggling mortician in working-class Rome, Freda only married her repulsive ventriloquist husband, Alberto, because it was prophesied that she'd do so. Now that he's vanished mysteriously along with his equally abhorrent dummy (who Freda suspects is actually a midget), she'd like them both to stay missing -- though she's devastated by the simultaneous disappearance of her soul mate, Pierino, her beloved talking parrot. While the police investigate this series of possible crimes, Freda will continue embalming by day, unleashing her caged passions at night in a seedy cabaret (until a tragic fire leaves the proprietor with a tuba stuck on his head), trying to make do with a talking hamster in lieu of dear Pierino . . . and recalling the vagaries of life that led her to this unfortunate juncture.
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Lily Prior is the author of La Cucina, Ardor, and Nectar and she divides her time between London and Italy.From Publishers Weekly:
A sexually frustrated Italian mortician tries to solve the riddle of her husband's disappearance in this drolly comic oddity. Prior (Ardor) sets the stage for an intriguing mystery when Freda, 26, discovers her apartment ransacked and both her beloved parrot and despised husband missing. The hunky investigating detective awakens Freda's buried passions, but this and any further developments in the case are put on hold for the next 100-odd pages as Freda recounts what led her to her present state. The garish scenery is worth the plot detour. From her deathbed, Freda's mother prophesied her daughter's marriage to a ventriloquist, and thus when Freda meets ventriloquist Alberto on a cruise, she accepts him as her destiny (even though he's repulsive, with hands like "slabs of hot lard smeared on my skin"). In the present, Freda really wants to find her parrot, while a talking hamster tries to take its place, and a disastrous fire at a cabaret where Alberto used to perform leaves the owner with the bell of a tuba permanently stuck on his head. Prior plants many seeds of mystery that never actually sprout—like what really happened to Alberto, for instance—but light laughs and plenty of absurdity make for a diverting read. (July)
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