THE BIOGRAPHICAL BLURB says that Anothony Mancini grew up in a working-class neighborhood of New York and knows his Little Italy. He does: Mancini lays the Italian on as thick as the crust of a Sicilian pizza in Minnie Santangle and the Evil Eye (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, $7.95).
In here second appearance as an amateur sleuth, Mainnie (for Minerva) of Hester Street is still cooking those mammoth family feasts, this time in celebration of the baptism of her six-month-old grandson. But not even a born-shaped coral talisman can ward off the malocchio , or evil eye - the baby dies, the godfather is brutally murdered, and Remo, Minnie's son, who hardly seems worth her efforts, falls feverishly ill. Minnie must match her powers as strega , a benevolent witch, against the evil rooted in her Old World homeland.
Mancini, a New York reporter with a brisk style, has a good eye, ear and nose for an Italian neighborhood and its characters. But it takes more than background to fashion a satisfying mystery. Minnie may accept the supernatural, but that isn't enough to explain those mysterious illnesses to the reader. Still, Minnie is a nice Italian mama and a spunky old gal, and Mancini does move the story along with a saucy flavor that's real Italian.