Inspector Montalbano was wounded in Rounding the Mark, and The Patience of the Spider begins with Montalbano being on leave to recuperate. Livia has even returned to his side to take care of his, banishing the ministrations of his housekeeper and marvelous cook, Adelina Cirrincio. Montalbano is concerned that the doctors will find out that he has a heart condition, but that doesn't happen. Except for occasional love-making (which Livia isn't anxious for), Montalbano is leading a circumscribed life . . . even eating healthy, low-calorie foods. Bah!
Naturally, it is a relief when Montalbano is called temporarily back to duty as a kidnapping overwhelms the local force. But the case is not to be his; a colleague comes from a place where kidnappings are common events.
The kidnapped woman, Susanna Mistretta, is a pretty young university student . . . and her family doesn't have any money. Everyone fears the worst, that this is a sexual crime rather than extortion. And initially, there's no news from the kidnappers.
That set of circumstances seems strange to Montalbano. As he investigates, more little things bother him. Why is her motorbike facing in the wrong direction? Where is her helmet? As time passes, the little things seem to suggest of shadow of something else. What could it be?
But it's annoying to work on the case, because Livia alternately berates him for not doing enough . . . and for not telling her about every little development.
Will the young woman be saved? Will she get back in time to say good-bye to her dying mother? Your heart will be wrung as you consider those elements.
The story lacks the usual Montalbano zest for several reasons. He isn't able to indulge his gourmet and gourmand tendencies so the food side of the story is thin. The kidnapping's complications also reveal themselves in a very transparent fashion. I think you'll figure out the puzzle pretty early in the book. Montalbano also has fewer humorous interludes with the other members of the police. The energy, humor, and suspense are just at a low ebb. It's a pleasant mystery, but it's one that won't kick yourself if you don't read it.
The indirect development of the character of the kidnapped woman is quite well done. That was obviously the writing challenge that appealed to Mr. Camilleri as he wrote this book.
The Patience of the Spider is about kidnapping. But it isn't just a female university student who is held captive. So are we, the readers.
For the most part, the novel follows the well-tried formula: Livia's unpredictability (matching Montalbano's); Catarella's imbecility; the Police Authority's antipathy towards their heroic Inspector; and finally, of course, the Inspector's preternatural sleuthing (in this novel, he knows in advance when people are on the point of death, for instance).
In other ways, however, this one is different. The opening is more leisurely - it isn't until Chapter 2 that we get to know about the main focus of the investigation. But this is a plus, because in Chapter 1 we are entertained by Salvo's razor-sharp wit. This book isn't as busy as others in the series, but remains fast-paced and engaging. (And anyway, much of the drama takes place inside the Inspector's head, as he thinks and questions aloud. For many, a more rewarding kind of 'action' than that of the Hollywood car-crash variety.)
Montalbano 8 has wonderful pace, sparkling dialogue and thoughtful, occasionally poetic, prose. Earlier reviewers may well be right about this one being easier to crack than others in the series. But any really good book is surely about more than just a plot or a mystery. Here we also have a teasing and profound dilemma: what should take precedence, state law or individual moral conscience? Not that easy to decide when you happen to be a cop. Engrossing stuff.
I love the Montalbano series and have read most of them. I was really eager to start this one, and it starts well. Montalbano is recovering from an injury sustained in the line of duty which also causes him to worry about his mortality and question his abilities as a cop. He is called in to assist on the sidelines with a complex kidnap case involving a young and beautiful girl and senses that all is not as it should be.
The things that were great about this book were the setting, the sights and sounds of Sicily; The fact that we get to know more about Montalbano's complicated relationship with his girlfriend Livia and of course Montalbano himself. The thing that let it down was the case, which I had guessed the outcome for fairly early on. I'm not saying I'm a mastermind or anything, I just thing that if you're used to the way things play out in the Montalbano novels this one might not be quite up to par for you.
Having said that it's still a great read and well worth having.
The Patience of the Spider opens as Inspector Salvo Montalbano is recovering from injuries sustained in his previous adventure, the brilliant Rounding the Mark. Indeed, this novel opens a matter of hours afterwards as Salvo, recuperates under the ministrations of his partner Livia and undergoes flashbacks to time in hospital. That is all cut abruptly short, though, when a local girl is kidnapped and Salvo is called on to the case, though only on the sidelines, not as the investigator in charge. The kidnapping is a real puzzle: it's well-known that the girl's family cannot possibly pay the ransom, and the behaviour of the kidnappers makes little sense to Montalbano. However, with a bit of dogged investigation and after a few revealing discoveries, he eventually gets to the truth...
The Patience of the Spider is not the best Montalbano by quite a long shot. However, that is saying little, as it's still a hugely entertaining, amusing read. Montalbano himself is on fine crotchety, manipulative, intuitively brilliant form. The writing is as funny and lightly sarcastic as ever also. However, the plot here has a lot less meat on its bones than previous outings. Indeed, there's little more to the book than then simple synopsis presented above. It's direct and focused, but it feels thin and underdeveloped. And not only that, but it's quite obvious what's going on from about halfway through the book, and the reader is rather surprised that Montalbano doesn't cotton on to what's going on immediately. It's enjoyable, yes, but would be served well by bring a bit more complex.
That said, however, it says a lot about the qualities of Camilleri's hugely enjoyable writing style (it's full of sly fun and reads immensely quickly - possibly thanks to the simplicity of the plot!) that the book is still 100% worth reading. Even with the mystery so easy to puzzle out (and Camilleri himself seems to subconsciously agree on this point, giving as he does only two pages to solve it in), the book is still a fun treat to read. I recommend it, as I do all his books, but it's not the most well-rounded of the series, and certainly is a pale sister compared to the brilliance of last year's Rounding the Mark.
on 22 December 2011
A thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing read, which is what one expects every time from Mr Camilleri. Plots are always well structured and Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a thoroughly flawed but likeable character, who somehow always comes to the right decision and gets his murderer. He sulks, he doubts, he uses people, he does not suffer fools gladly, is a total foodie, Italian food of course, and he makes me laugh out loud. Great stuff.
on 1 February 2010
It's a good book not a great one. It has all the usual characteristics of a montalbano story. Sicily , food , the internal machinations of the higher echelons of the police dept and our beloved protagonist.
He is recovering from a gunshot wound , perhaps it has taken a little vim, vigour and pep out of his step. But Insp Montalbano still seems to be the only one with any kind of grip of the situation.
There are the usual pops at the establishment Berlusconi and his cronyism is writ large.
There is great comfort in these storys if you know them you love them. They are a particular taste much like the food . If you like Insp Montalbano then you will like this one. There have been no disappointments so far in this series. You cannot say this for all series.
In the eighth of Andrea Camilleri’s series featuring Inspector Montalbano, we find him on enforced sick leave following the events described in ‘Rounding the Mark’. Indeed the book opens with the policeman remembering the shooting that threatened his career and life. This English translation, published in 2007, is by Stephen Sartorelli who, once again, includes a set of informative Notes.
For obvious reasons there is less action in this novel than in most in the series. Indeed, it is made quite clear to Montalbano that he is acting in a purely consultative role in an investigation led by Inspector Filippo Minutolo of the Montelusa Police, a colleague that he respects. Montalbo’s boss considers that Minutolo, a Calabrian from Messina, ‘should know a lot about kidnappings.’
A student at Palermo University, Susanna Mistretta, has apparently been kidnapped. Her moped has been found near her home but several factors are unusual, not least that her family has very little money to pay any ransom. Details of the disappearance soon reach the press and cause the police added difficulties.
In contrast to earlier books, Montalbano’s girlfriend, Livia, is staying to look after him while he recovers. This has decided plusses and minuses – on the one hand they are able to send time together but she is not a very good cook, has decided opinions about his returning to work and is concerned that too amorous behavior might cause setback his recovery.
Except for the garrulous Catarella, Montalbano’s usual colleagues are in the shadows and much of the investigation proceeds through discussions between Montalbano and Minutolo. Camilleri makes pointed comments about the political and legal systems and the judiciary in Italy [‘A typical lawyer’s office appeared. Dark wood bookcases full of unread books, collections of laws dating back to the late nineteenth century but surely still in effect because in Italy no part of any hundred-year-old law is ever thrown away, Same with pigs.’], the role of the press, middle age and taking on the role of godfather [with a decidedly small ‘g’].
As is the case in this series, the investigation is only part of the pleasure of the book and here the author drops various hints that make the identity of the guilty party not too difficult to establish. Montalbano pursues the investigation, meeting a vice-mayoral relative of Catarella’s, and at the end of the novel Livia returns to Genoa and he decides what to do about the criminals behind the abduction. The relationship between Montalbano and Livia is very honestly described; each has strong feelings for the other but both also value their independence.
Sartorelli’s translation is, once again, an integral part of Camilleri’s success and here he tones down the eccentricities of Catarella’s language which I often find slightly wearying. Because of the lack of action and its relationship to ‘Rounding the Mark, I do not think that I would recommend this as a place to start reading Camilleri’s series.
The Sicilian landscapes are hauntingly described and the relative lack of young people in the rural areas is very evident [one small town boasted ‘a tiny piazza, church, town hall, café, bank, trattoria, and shoe store. All around the piazza were granite benches, with some ten men sitting on them, all aging, old, or decrepit. They weren’t talking, weren’t moving at all. For a fraction of a second, Montalbano thought they were statues, splendid examples of hyperrealist art. But then one of them, apparently belonging to the decrepit category, suddenly threw his head backwards and laid it against the back of the bench. He was either dead, as seemed quite likely, or had been overcome by a sudden desire to sleep.’].
There is the usual satirical fun directed at administrators, media commentators and corrupt businessmen, and the author creates three-dimensional characters out of mere whisps of text. The title comes from a Robert the Bruce moment that Montalbano has on his veranda but also relates to the patience of the criminals in planning and carrying out the kidnapping. Montalbano's passion for food is presented much against the eagle eyes of Livia who is determined that he eat healthily and stop smoking [which he doesn’t].
on 9 December 2012
I was drawn to the novels by a chance viewing of an episode of the television adaptation. I began to read the books in sequence and, having joined the T.V. series late I am just beginning to catch up with plots I recognise. Nevertheless, Camilleri has the rare gift of making character-driven stories in a way that gradually deepens the reader's affection for his characters with each new novel. Montalbano himself with his vanities, and obsession with eating well, the way his commitment phobia is balanced by his jealousy is appealingly human. His presence in the books is developed by his relationship to his devoted team at Vigata police station, the exasperated Mimi Augello, the astute and unfailingly loyal Fazio, and Cateralla whose Italian versions of the malapropism are captured hilariously by Camilleri's translator, Stephen Sartarelli, all contribute to the sense of daily life in the Sicilian police system. For the English reader Montalbano's struggles with the legal bureaucracy that sometimes seems a greater enemy than the criminals themselves is also intriguing. I have sampled many different British and American detective series which have attempted to pull off the same trick but almost always after the second or third book they degenerate into a pattern of cliched themes. Camilleri manages to blend of comedy and humanity with elaborate plotting that satisfies the reader's desire to work with the hero to a solution.
Lighter fare after the drama of "Rounding the Mark". Recuperating Montalbano is assigned a supporting role in the puzzling case of missing Susanna Mistretta. Her moped has been found abandoned, a ransom demanded. Her family, though, has little money. What chance of finding her alive?
Readers can settle back comfortably - confident more colourful characters will be met, further superb meals described, the Inspector again destined to outwit all. Of course frenetic Catarella will continue to hurtle through doorways, gasping someone wishes to speak "poissonally in poisson". This time we even meet Catarella's cousin, living in a tiny village extraordinary even by Sicilian standards.
More seriously there is evidence how the media can manipulate and be manipulated, the harm done by its disreputable elements. Montalbano's sworn enemy, television reporter Bippo Ragonese, here shamelessly whips the public into a frenzy. More appealing is Susanna's distraught boyfriend Francesco, the Inspector impressed by his commonsense.
The series radiates such warmth, many fans will not mind an addition perhaps a little below par. The spider analogy seems somewhat contrived, and the outcome does not entirely convince. Some may anticipate almost from the start how things will work out. For once, I did.
Not vintage, but still enjoyable.
After his injury at the end of the last book Montalbano is recuperating with Livia to look after him: but when a young woman is kidnapped he is called back on duty and has to navigate a fiendishly convoluted plot of revenge.
I love this series and especially liked this book for the comedy and for Montalbano's grumpy emotionalism - here he's still agonising about his age but is also uncharacteristically revealing of his feelings for Livia. There's less tragedy and overt political commentary that some of the earlier books but still that lovely sly wit taking sideswipes at Italian culture. And Catarella rather excells himself!
So this may be quieter than some of the previous books but it's an assured and very confident story all the same. This may be number 8 in the series but there's no drop in quality and our intimacy with the characters continues to grow.