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The Wings of the Sphinx (Inspector Montalbano Mysteries) Paperback – 29 Dec 2009

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Paperback, 29 Dec 2009
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Product details

  • Paperback: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (29 Dec. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143116606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143116608
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 906,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrea Camilleri is one of Italy's most famous contemporary writers. His Montalbano series has been adapted for Italian television and translated into nine languages. He lives in Rome. Stephen Sartarelli is an award-winning translator. He is also the author of three books of poetry, most recently The Open Vault. He lives in France.

Product Description

Amazon Review

The best foreign crime fiction writing is as much to be found in the idiomatic prose of the field as it is in the exotic settings we are taken to. Both of these elements are delivered with the panache that is Andrea Camilleri’s signature in The Wings of the Sphinx. We are back in the company of Camilleri’s wily Sicilian copper Salvo Montalbano (he of the hyper-analytical mind, and endlessly indulged gourmet tastes). And we’re back on Commissario Montalbano’s stamping ground: the exquisite, sleepy territory of Vigata.

In the new book, the detective is going through a distinctly rocky patch with his long-distance lover, Livia, and he has other concerns: he is uneasily conscious of anno domini and the dispiriting effect of the violence that is such an omnipresent part of his job. At the same time, a gruesome discovery is made – the body of a young woman is found; half of her face has been blown away. The only clue to the dead woman’s identity is a tattoo – not of a dragon, but of another mythical creature: a sphinx – and she shares this mark with three other young women, Russian immigrants to Italy. All three are involved with the sex trade – and all three are missing.

All of this is authoritatively handed, and The Wings of the Sphinx (translated, as usual, by Stephen Sartarelli) will please Camilleri admirers. The Montalbano books follow certain pre-arranged patterns, but they are none the worse for that. Readers will be intrigued by Montalbano's disturbing professional case here – and the detective’s attempts to salvage his damaged relationship with his lover. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


'Andrea Camilleri's latest is the 11th delightful adventure of the attractively irascible Inspector Salvador Montalbano, lover of food (provided its Sicilian) and of Livia (provided he doesn't have to commit.) As he gets older he is becoming sadder and wisser, and the books a little darker and more serious - though without losing their effervescent wit and general mood of bonhomie.' --The Times --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Persephone on 18 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
In Wings of the Sphinx, Camilleri returns to the things I enjoy about the Montalbano series: the food, the Sicilian ambience and the (by now) well-known characters (Mimi, Cat and Livia), and especially of course, the irrascible Montalbano. Montalbano's reflections on the impact of the Passage of Time on his profession, on his personal relationships and on his body all ring true. The engrossing plot is a trip through Sicily to meet some of its more colorful citizens. But all this chuminess is balanced (for instance)by Camilleri's sadly all-too-true observations about the way Sicilians have thrown garbage all over the uspeakably lovely Sicilian landscape. As usual, Stephen Sartarelli's translation notes are a joy. And! Wings of the Sphinx contains an actual recipe (given to Montalbano by another character), which I immediately copied out and tried, and as they say in Brooklyn, it's so good "Your brains'll fall out." Wings of the Sphinx is delicious, too. Buy it, read it, tell your friends.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By zeev wolfe on 11 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
Probably since book three, these books are not about solving mysteries, but enjoying Salvo Montalbano's look on life. He's just as cynical as Michael Dibdin's Zen or Donna Leon's Brunetti, but he has a totally different way of looking at life in Italy (well actually Sicily, which isn't truly Italian). While Zen is always looking at the dark side, and Brunetti is more philosophical in his Venetian bastion, Montalbano lives life openly an without apology.

But at 56 the Inspector is beginning to feel that the sands are running out in the hourglass (terrible cliche, but true) and he wants to have more 'substance' to his life. He may complain about Mimi constantly being away from work because of his 'little one' but in ways he is jealous of him. He knows he doesn't want to be alone at the end of his life, but he can't come to a conclusion of how to hold onto Livia without changing his lifestyle.

In the side story of a faked kidnapping, we see Salvo judging the man who ran off with his mistress for a vacation, while his wife was up in arms that the Police were doing nothing to find him. In the main story we have four Russian girls (all with sphinx moth tattoos on the left shoulder blade), who in one way or another are mixed up in something illicit due to being in love or being loved.

Montalbano, who is the only brain in the whole book, enjoys baiting his superiors, belittling his co-workers and sating his appetite as much as any glutton. Every one else in the book is there to be used by Salvo, to either perpetuate the story or give him some one to mock. But it seems that this is all becoming stale and Salvo wants more permanence in his life. One wonders if this has anything to do with the ninety year old author!

I'm looking forward to the translations of the next three books, and hopefully at some point Camilleri will retire our Inspector, so that the series will have a 'real' ending and not just an end.

Zeev Wolfe
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Elaine Simpson-long TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 July 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I first discovered the Inspector Montelbano stories I didn't much care for them but they have grown on me and now I am totally hooked.

A dead body of a young woman is found in a dump with half her face shot off. Her indentity is at first unknown but then a tattoo of a sphinx moth on her shoulder links her with three other girls bearing the same mark, all recent Russian immigrants to Italy. Montelbano solves it all in his usual cavalier style while seemingly placing the demands of his stomach above all else and trying to deal with his long term lover Livia with whom he is having difficulties. Rattling along at a great pace, lots of humour and featuring, as always, the wonderful Catarella who mangles names and numbers and forgets messages, adores Montalbano and who keeps telling him that he has a visitor 'poissenly in poisson'. Wonderful and this latest is well up to standard and kept my glooms at bay for another day.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
These books are a delight to me, in the same way that Alexander McCall Smith's No 1. Ladies Detective Agency series are. They have almost nothing to do with crime, and everything to do with the author's thorough enjoyment of the character he has created and the world that the character inhabits. If you are looking for something new in this outing for Montalbano you will be disappointed. His relationship with Livia is still desperately dysfunctional and characterised more by the time he spends apart from her than with her. He still thinks of his belly first, and what to put in it, and he is still worried about ageing.

But these are the things that make these books so beautiful. I love the fact that Montalbano is more worried about there being no fish for lunch because of rain out at sea than he is about solving the murder of the girl with the sphinx moth tattoo on her shoulder. I love the fact he is crotchety and doubtful and still full of anger and caustic wit.

Camilleri is a master of painting the nuances of Sicilian life, gently poking modern politicians with snide allusions and asides, and getting on with sharing more of Montalbano with us, his devoted readers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Maxine Clarke VINE VOICE on 26 Feb. 2011
Format: Hardcover
THE WINGS OF THE SPHINX is an utter delight. Reading any one of this series of short books about Inspector Salvo Montalbano and his colleagues in the Vigata (Sicilian) police is a wonderful experience. The author beautifully and precisely captures the humanity and humour underlying the tragedies of modern existence - somehow the corruption, the evil, the crimes and lack of sensitivity, the political correctness and the nannyism that we all endure seem not so bad when viewed through the warm and unflinching eyes of Montalbano, a passionate barometer of conscience who is incapable of compromise with any of these unwelcome entities.
The novel starts in brisk fashion when the body of a young woman is found in a dump. She was shot in the face, so her main distinguishing mark is a tattoo on her shoulder of what everyone at first thinks is a butterfly. Nobody can work out who the woman is, and when the results of the post mortem are in, the puzzle only deepens.
In the throes of what is sometimes called a mid-life crisis and at other times the male menopause, Montalbano is brooding on what to make of his life - whether to retire, whether to marry or break up with Livia - when the body is found. Irresistibly drawn to trying to discover what happened, he uncovers a fishy-seeming organisation underwritten by the Catholic church, in which vulnerable young women, usually immigrants from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, are "rescued" from clubs and casinos and retrained as housekeepers. It seems that the victim may have been one of these women.
Montalbano's detective skills are very sharp, and he soon gets pretty much to the bottom of what is going on.
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