Mystery author # 31: Andrea Camilleri

Translator: Stephen Sartarelli
Series detective: Inspector Salvo Montalbano
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Vigàta, Sicily (and neighbourhood), Italy; late 20th century

This time, I read two books by the author. Note that the given year of publication is for the original Italian publication.

Title: The Shape of Water
Original Italian title: La forma dell'acqua
No. in series: 1
Year of publication: 1994
Type of mystery: Death under mysterious circumstances (possibly murder), police procedural

Story: A famous and respected Sicilian political leader is found dead from a heart attack. There is no doubt of the cause of death, but as the circumstances of the finding of the body and the place where it was found are rather suspicious, Inspector Montalbano decides to get to the bottom of it, despite pressure from the authorities to close the case. Was it an accidental death during a sexual encounter with a prostitute, or was the heart attack manufactured, making it a murder?

Rating: A fresh, sneaky and entertaining police procedural. 4 stars.

Title: The Voice of the Violin
Original Italian title: La voce del violino
No. in series: 4
Year of publication: 1997
Type of mystery: Murder; police procedural

Story: Inspector Montalbano's curiosity leads him to the body of a young woman who has been murdered during or after sex. Her purse, full of expensive jewellery, is missing, so robbery appears to have been the motive, but the clues show that in all likelihood she knew her murderer. When the case is taken from the local police and handed over to the carabineri who proceed to make things more complicated, Montalbano seizes the opportunity to put one over an obnoxious police commissioner, but he also has to deal with some serious regrets caused by his own mistakes.

Rating: A fine and entertaining murder mystery. 4+ stars.

Author review: I have found a new "must read more" author in Andrea Camilleri. The narrative technique in both books combines humour, skilful writing and great plotting, and Stephen Sartarelli's translations are very good. Montalbano is an instantly likeable character, and the plots are a heady mixture of passion and cold calculation, interspersed with glimpses of Sicilian life and the ways of the Sicilian people. I can't wait to read more. 4 stars.

P.S. For those who are unfamiliar with Italian/Sicilian society, there are explanations of some of the things a reader may stumble over, in the last pages of the book.


Maxine said…
I read the first of these recently, and loved it. I have bought the next few in the series and am looking forward to them.
There are some lovely brief reviews and thoughts about this series and its author on Crime Scraps blog (link on Petrona blogroll).
James said…

We saw that you'd blogged about Camilleri's Montalbano books and thought you might be interested in a piece on the Picador blog from Stephen Sartarelli, on the subject of translating Camilleri's Montalbano books:

Best wishes,
Picador blog team

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