7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I came late to the joys of the writing of Andrea Camilleri and his flawed and ageing Inspector Salvo Montalbano. Which is a tragedy for me since I dislike going back to earlier stories when I already know how the characters have evolved.
Fortunately, I came across 'The Scent of the Night' whilst on holiday so ordered this book ready for my return. I'm glad I did. This is the seventh in the series; I've no idea how many more can be created by the author but both books I've read are simply full of warmth in the writing, seriousness in the characterisation and, on top of all that, there is the added bonus of a good few snippets of Sicilian food recipes.
Camilleri, ably aided by his excellent translator, creates a picture of Sicily which you cannot help but enjoy. In a way, that there are bodies to be found (sometimes in very unexpected situations), that a murderer (or murderers) need apprehending, that the Inspector does not get on too well (to say the least) with his superiors, all this is almost incidental to way you gradually sink into the life and times of the somewhat slow-moving and ponderous Italian police force. That his love life swings like a slow-motion pendulum just piles up the pleasure for the reader.
As a mixture of Columbo, Maigret and perhaps a dash of Marlowe, this detective inspector is an excellent recipe in his own right!
I just loved this book; I hope you do, too.
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2007
Inspector Montalbano is mightily cheesed off. His dislike of the current government has been heightened by the revelation that they ordered that evidence be fabricated against a group of political protesters in order to justify their detention. The fact that the high-ups in the police went along with it is the last straw. Montalbano has decided he's going to quit the police.
However, while having a swim in the sea to mull things over and relax a little, Montalbano accidentally bumps into another body. After apologising and receiving no reply, he discovers much to his horror that the body is a corpse. The death of the unidentified man is later put down to accidental drowning.
To cap off his week, he is called out when yet another boatload of illegal immigrants lands on Sicily's shores. While reluctantly assisting in the rounding up of the newly arrived immigrants, Montalbano notices that a little African boy has broken away from his family and has run off. He gives chase and finds the boy cowering, terrified behind some barrels. He takes the boy by the hand and leads him back to his mother. But later on, after reflection something about the boy's demeanour and his apparent terror seems to be out of proportion to the situation.
When the boy's body is found a few days later, the victim of what seems to be a hit and run accident, Montalbano feels guilty that perhaps his actions in returning the boy have somehow contributed to his death. The fact that the boy has been found in the same isolated area as the drowned man strikes Montalbano as being more than an unhappy coincidence and he takes it upon himself to investigate.
ROUNDING THE MARK is Andrea Camilleri's seventh Inspector Montalbano novel and not for nothing is he currently Italy's most successful author. The fact that Camilleri was in his seventies before creating the irascible inspector is even more remarkable.
ROUNDING THE MARK is my first encounter with Inspector Montalbano and associates. I loved the sly, slightly macabre humour injected into the story. (The description of the inspector swimming into the body and how he goes about towing it to the shore had me giggling to myself).
By no stretch of the imagination could you call Salvo Montalbano a loveable character, but his grouchiness and his quirks do have an endearing quality to them. You can't help but like him. His work colleagues too have their own individual personalities. Fazio, who is almost as grumpy and outspoken as Montalbano, the loyal Mimi Augello and of course where would they be without Catarella? Catarella is incapable of opening a door without slamming it into a wall. He can never remember names and he always gets phone messages wrong. And finally there is the unseen Toretta who always seems to have what's needed: from a spare pair of spectacles to rubber hip-high wading boots. (In fact the Inspector remains to be convinced that Toretta hasn't set up an emporium in his office).
The success of a book written in a language other than English often hinges on the work of the translater. ROUNDING THE MARK has been translated into English by Stephen Sartarelli. One of the most challenging tasks for translaters must be how to convey to the reader a sense of a character by his accent or dialect. Sartarelli has managed this deftly by giving the character of Catarella an almost Brooklyn accent and has also avoided any hint of pomposity or long-windedness which often sneaks into translated books.
The end result is a nicely complex tale populated with three dimensional characters, each with their own individual personality traits. Andrea Camilleri is another author I shall definitely be reading again.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Camilleri is not afraid to let Inspector Montalbano age and in this book he really is showing it. The story opens with Montalbano making an appointment to hand in his resignation, which luckily for us, never comes to fruition.
This theme of endings and exits is a continual undercurrent throughout the narrative however. Montalbano's relationship with Livia is in peril, his favourite cafe is closing. The world is changing around him and not for the better.
He comes up against illegal traffic in immigrant children and his inability to be on the ball costs him dearly more than once. The issue of his fitness for purpose is left open ended as the book closes leaving us to wonder if he will return and in what way.
One of the darker of the series but none the worse for that.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2009
If you haven't read the Montalbano detective series start with number one and work towards this book and the others in the series. The atmosphere created is wonderful, you can almost smell the olives, the sea and the fish cooking in restaurants - the detective work is the backdrop to these wonderful descriptions of life in the South of Italy. Montalbano is a joy - grumpy, a maverick, a nightmare to work for but someone who creates great loyalty, loves his food and generally enjoys life. They are well worth investing in and you will go back and read them - I promise.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 November 2011
Montalbano goes for a swim and bumps into a body which he tows back to shore. Later he witnesses the arrival of illegal immigrants. A small boy breaks away from his mother and Montalbano grabs his hand so his mother can retrieve him. Montalbano's unofficial investigation reveals the connection between the two incidents. But the plot is almost incidental. So what is it that makes this such an enjoyable read?
Firstly, it is the character of the eccentric Montalbano himself. The story is told entirely from his point of view. He is in every scene, yet he remains unpredictable; neither his thinking about the investigation nor his plans are revealed. We, like his men, are observers who can be surprised, perplexed and frustrated by what he does. We do, however, see more of his private thoughts, about his girlfriend, Livia, for example, or the glamorous and talented Ingrid who is called upon as a sort of assistant to his nefarious activities. His moods are revealed, too, partly through his thoughts and partly through the reactions of other people, particularly his men who find him bad-tempered and unpredictable. But, for all his weaknesses and irascibility he is respected and held in affection by those who know him, and by the reader, too. He is a gifted detective who follows his instincts rather than a logical analysis of clues. He has the sort of courage that means he puts himself in danger but overcomes his genuine fears. He has a strong moral code, which is unusual, possibly unique, in the highly corrupt society of Sicily - a corruption that is always near the surface and clearly articulated, though sometimes in a tongue-in-cheek style.
Secondly, it is the portrayal of the minor characters. Cataralla, for instance, lights up every scene with his blundering enthusiasm and comical mispronunciations. Or Montalbano's superior, Dr Lattes, who always asks about Montalbano's non-existent family, and Montalbano always replies as though he has one. There are many others, too.
Thirdly there is the style, described perfectly by The TLS as `cunning yet curiously gentle'. It is witty, economical and permeated with a sardonic view of life. If you haven't read the Montalbano stories, you must, and you would be better starting at the beginning of the series. But beware, once started you will be hooked, and there are plenty to go at. If you are already familiar with the detective, this novel will not disappoint.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Rounding the Mark is a tragedy with lots of comedy to soften it. The darkness in this book comes from the pits of hell. Dante would have recognized the evil doers.
Ultimately, the lesson this story teaches is that we need to see ourselves more objectively and have a good laugh at what we see. That's a message that many won't be ready for as they consider the evil that men do to one another.
As the book opens, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is upset by instances of misbehavior by the police. The core of his self-worth is so affronted that he cannot bear to remain part of the police. Then, in a series of comedic turns, events conspire to delay his decision. This upset leads him to take a long swim . . . during which he has a most unusual surprise. That surprise immediately has burlesque consequences that will keep you laughing.
Next, a continuing gag line is established when Montalbano receives a call from Deputy Commissioner Riguccio who needs to borrow some glasses. While delivering the glasses, Montalbano unknowingly steps into moral quicksand . . . and lives to have nightmares about the consequences. From there, Montalbano finds that he can always count on his colleague, Torretta, to provide whatever is needed.
The affront to Montalbano's self-esteem is so severe that he pursues a one-man private investigation to right a wrong. In the course of that investigation, he learns a lot about his limits. Others, it turns out, are more aware and assist in unexpected ways.
In Rounding the Mark, Andrea Camilleri moves beyond the limits of the mystery and police procedural genres to movingly display the ambiguous position that the police play in serving the public while needing to address their own fears, prejudices, and feelings. For that purpose, the comedy in the book is too strong. Those interludes feel like clowns from the circus running across the stage in the middle of Macbeth.
But if you have enjoyed the earlier books in the series, you'll be moved by this one. It will strike you as a more serious and depressing book than most of the others. The contact with mortality is more visceral and personal here, and you'll feel it deeply.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
In another strong episode in the ongoing story of Salvo Montalbano and friends, Camilleri demonstrates once again that no-one manages to combine outrageous farce, tragedy, cynical political commentary and angry swipes at social injustice like Camilleri. The scene where Montalbano appears unwillingly naked on TV had me laughing out loud but the tone shifts rapidly to encompass far deeper emotions.
The title is a good example of Camilleri’s trademark light touch but I’ll leave it to potential readers to explore for themselves. If you’ve read the other books in this series then don’t hesitate about this: if you haven’t, start at the beginning and enjoy this consistently wonderful series that is both sunny and very dark.
This is Camilleri's seventh Inspector Montalbano mystery, the English translation by Stephen Sartarelli being published in 2006.
Two mysterious deaths are investigated in parallel, firstly; that of a decomposing corpse whom Montalbano bumps into whilst having a relaxing evening swim, naked, off the Sicilian coast. `In a fraction of a second, Montalbano realized he'd struck a human foot. Somebody else was floating right beside him and he hadn't noticed. "Excuse me," he said hastily, flipping onto his belly and looking over his should at the other. The person beside him didn't answer, however, because he wasn't doing the dead man's float. He was actually dead. And, to judge from the way he looked, he'd been so for quite some time'.
The second death is the hit-and-run killing of a young illegal immigrant from Africa that the Inspector has seen before, when the boat transporting him and others from Africa was intercepted by police patrol boats and the immigrants were brought ashore at Vigata. A young boy tries to escape from the shore police but Montalbano, feeling sympathy for his plight, gently takes him into custody, "[Montalbano] heard some rustling. It came from a wooden crate right in front of him. The boy must have been huddled behind it. He could have leapt forward and nabbed him, but chose to keep still. Then he saw the hands, arms, head and chest slowly appear. The rest of the little body remained hidden by the crate. The boy was holding his hands up, signaling surrender, eyes open wide in terror. But he was trying very hard not to cry, not to show any weakness".
Throughout the novel, Montalbano becomes increasingly frustrated by media revelations about the politics of police corruption and about the unlawful behaviour of the police towards demonstrators against the G10 meeting in Genoa. The Inspector decides to resign in protest and has made an appointment to inform his superior.
Both deaths are linked to the same isolated area and Montalbano, thinking this may not be a coincidence, decides to investigate. However, the Inspector faces an even bigger challenge: Trattoria San Calogero, his usual restaurant, has closed due to the owner's retirement and he is desperately searching for a new place to eat that comes up to his exacting standards.
There is the usual banter and interactions between the Inspector's police colleagues, in particular, Catarella who is incapable of opening a door without slamming it into a wall and who has a memory like a sieve. He can never remember names and he always gets phone messages wrong. Sartarelli's translation is at its most enjoyable when ctreating Catarella's tortuous speech - once or twice it seemed to have a touch of the Bronx about it.
Thus Catarella greets Montalban the morning after his rescue of the corpse when his nude photograph is across all the local media, "Hey, I saw you on TV, Chief. Jesus, what an embodiment you got!". Asking Catarella about some anti-police graffiti that had been scawled on the station wall, Montalbano asks who did it. "I don't poissonally know them that writ'em". What the hell was Catarella talking about? "Was it anonymous?" "No, Chief, it wasn't on nominus, it was onna wall outside. An' `at was why Fazio, foist ting this morning, called for the painers to come cover it up". In this book, it is Catarelli who makes the suggestion that sets the investigation on the right track.
But Camilleri gives each of the police team a very real character: Fazio, almost as grumpy and outspoken as the Inspector, the loyal Mimi Augello, a man who is waiting for his wife to give birth, and the unseen Toretta who always seems to be able to provide Montalbano with what he needs: a pair of spectacles, rubber hip-high wading boots. As a result, the Inspector half believes that Toretta has established an emporium in his office, and is using this as a second source of income.
At the beginning and towards the end of the book, the Inspector has symptoms that suggest he should visit his doctor. Certainly effortful sea swimming and over-eating/ might not be possible for much longer. The former could be abandoned but the second?
Camillero uses the novel to consider the problem of people trafficking and the political response to it, that he does so in a book that has many humorous moments in no way weakens his criticisms. However, one does not feel at all belaboured by the author's opinions. In short, another masterly novel by a master craftsman who was 78 when this book was first published in Italy, in 2003. It all seems to have been effortlessly written but such is the skill of the author.
on 21 June 2012
The underlying themes of this book are dark - Montalbano's frustration at his aging, and also - but I won't spoil the story - the nature of the crime that he comes to realise that he is investigating. As one witness tells him, the world has become too evil. No wonder the man doesn't want to face up to what he saw. What could be unbearably grim, however, is leavened by the humour and by the interplay of character especially among the police. By the way, does anyone know Mimi actually does to justify his rank and his salary; he rarely seems to come into the office or have any crimes of his own to solve. Although Montalbano is, as always, the hero in terms of his thought processes, and through his attempt to emulate James Bond (or should that be the Man from the Milk Tray advert?) , for me the honours in this book go to Fazio, who displays far more than mere professional loyalty. It is interesting that on one occasion Montalbano refers to Fazio as being middle-aged; in the television series he is portrayed as a young man, and that strikes me as more appropriate to the character Camilleri has created and who is, for me, the most likable of all the regular cast. Surely it's about time he got promotion! It is also about time that Montalbano and Livia parted for their own sanity and that of the reader.
Montalbano is in deep depression, major police scandals elsewhere convincing him it is time to retire. Then there are the pains he tries to ignore. In so many ways everything seems wrong.
Fortunately other matters intervene. A corpse he encounters when swimming leads to a very serious case indeed, the plight of illegal immigrants demanding full attention.
This is a sombre tale with tragic aspects. Fortunately much humour lightens the load: banter with colleagues; more colourful characters; descriptions of the Inspector out and about in Sicily; full details of all those delicious meals.
Despite grimmer themes, one senses Camilleri often chuckling as he writes, especially when having digs at cliches that abound in police novels, films, and television offerings. Ironically this story culminates in one of the most common cliches of all -an officer recklessly venturing out at night to tackle villains on his own.
As always there is much to enjoy, but a poignant image is likely for long to haunt - that of the little boy who turned to Montalbano for help....