Stella and America

Joseph Incardona

French, Éditions Finitude, 2024

“He and his brother had never been able to sleep without a light on. They’d always been afraid of the dark because they knew what nightmares awaited them.”

“Meredith’s voice was husky from smoking. It sounded like gravel being poured into a plastic can. A very old plastic can with a handle about to break off, but a can that continues to be used every day.”


A young woman performing miracles in the United States? Excellent news for the Catholic Church so it would seem. But there are certain conditions. Both saint and  prostitute, Stella learns this to her cost. All the ingredients for a subtle, humorous and sassy thriller.

Joseph Incardona’s name is often associated with crime fiction. Rightly and wrongly, because in fact he has tackled a wide range of genres. But whatever the subject of his books, he always creates tension, plot twists and surprises – in short, suspense in the broadest sense. Appearing where he’s least expected, this Italian-born Swiss writer is also known for being on the side of the little people, his way of making cars characters in their own right, and his keen interest in bad guys, whether white-collar fraudsters or psychopathic killers.

With Stella and America, Incardona makes a brilliant return to the thriller genre, taking his reader on an action-packed chase across America. The protagonist is nineteen-year-old Stella Thibodeaux, who performs a series of spectacular cures. A saint, then, or rather a “kind of reverse Virgin”, as one character describes her.

Stella works as a prostitute, a prostitute with a big heart whose extraordinary powers only manifest through the sexual act. It’s a problem for the Catholic Church, and for Pope Simon II in particular, to make this saint acceptable to the Vatican; there’s no other solution but to make a martyr of her. And so to kill her off. A pair of hardened hit-men, the terrible Bronski twins, are sent after her, and Stella’s troubles begin. All that’s left for Stella and Father Brown, a former Navy Seal who’s taken her under his wing, to do is to vanish into thin air. Luckily, America is vast and the fugitives’ inventiveness is boundless!

Picturesque, sleazy and colourful, Incardona’s America could be straight out of a Coen brothers film, defying logic, categories and realism. And, as always with Incardona, the narrative is enriched by a wealth of stylistic and formal inventions. The author has no hesitation in intervening to tip the reader a wink. And when that’s not enough, he uses typography, representing a whisper in a tiny font or splitting a text in two better to convey Stella’s heightened sensitivity. Beautifully handled!

Text by Mireille Descombes

Stella et l’Amérique
Éditions Finitude
Translation rights
Pierre Astier,
Publication date
January 2024
Finaliste Grand Prix RTL-Lire Magazine littéraire – Sélection Prix de l’Instant – Sélection Prix Sade


Joseph Incardona

Italian-born Swiss author Joseph Incardona lives in Geneva. He has published some fifteen novels. His latest books, Derrière les panneaux, il y a des hommes (Grand Prix de littérature policière), Chaleur, La Soustraction des possibles (Prix Relay) and Les Corps solides are meeting with growing success both among the critics and the reading public. Several are in the process of being adapted for the cinema.

Photo:  © Sandrine Cellard