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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful start to Sicilian crime series: perfect miniatures of novels
This wonderful book was first published in 1994, but is as fresh today as it was the year it was written. The plot is simple: a man's body is discovered in a car in what is euphemistically called the Pasture, the red light district of Vigata, a small town in Sicily. The victim, Silvio Luparello, was a politician on the brink of success: unusually for Italy, he has an...
Published on 26 Feb 2011 by Maxine Clarke

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52 of 62 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Shape of Italian Writing
I have read a few Italian murders stories and this was one of the better books. Andrea gives you enough characterisation to know who the characters are without giving you a blow-by-blow account of their upbringing and what shoes they like wearing.
The thing I like was there was some political and social points made in the story which were not too heavy but it gave...
Published on 14 Oct 2004 by Ms. Lesa Smith


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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful start to Sicilian crime series: perfect miniatures of novels, 26 Feb 2011
By 
Maxine Clarke "Maxine of Petrona" (Kingston upon Thames, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This wonderful book was first published in 1994, but is as fresh today as it was the year it was written. The plot is simple: a man's body is discovered in a car in what is euphemistically called the Pasture, the red light district of Vigata, a small town in Sicily. The victim, Silvio Luparello, was a politician on the brink of success: unusually for Italy, he has an unblemished record. Not only is his body found in compromising circumstances, but according to the post mortem he died of natural causes. Why should this apparently upright citizen take such a risk on the eve of his success? Even more strangely, no sooner is the death announced than Luparello's lawyer, widely thought to be the architect of his successful career, joins forces with his chief rival for political office to sew up the election.
Inspector Salvo Montalbano is the detective faced with this puzzling case. He is under pressure from various powerful quarters to close it, but several things don't add up, in particular the discovery of a very expensive piece of jewellery near the crime scene, and the question of how the car could have got to its final, grim destination. Just as water takes the shape of whatever vessel it is in, so the clues and witness statements seem to shift in whatever direction Montalbano pushes.
The beauty of this book is in the evocation of place: the way in which the townspeople of all types live; the background of endemic political corruption; and the ways in which honest men like Montalbano have evolved to live with it - presented with wry, understated humour. Above all, though, is the sense of place, in which the family of the victim, Montalbano's colleagues, friends (male and female), witnesses and townspeople, are all portrayed tellingly.
Gradually, Montalbano finds out more about the strange circumstances of Luparello's death. First it seems that the wife of the victim's rival is responsible. Yet the more Montalbano investigates, the more it seems to him that he is being led by the nose. He keeps on digging, interviews everyone, talks his boss (in a lovely scene) into letting him continue despite all attempts to make him close the case, and eventually solves the crime.
THE SHAPE OF WATER is one of those books whose appeal lies not in the detective aspects, though those are certainly satisfying, but in the characters that populate the story. Everyone seems to walk from real life into the pages, and when they leave, you can imagine them returning to their daily lives. I loved everything about this book, and am especially thankful that there are several more novels in this series that I have yet to read.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Shape of things to come?, 22 Dec 2008
By 
Richard Latham (Burton on Trent) - See all my reviews
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Never thought about these detective stories even though I love Maigret. Then I saw a couple of episodes on the BBC and loved the drama, locations and original characterisation. So I returned to the original text, well the translation of Stephen Sartarelli and I was enchanted by the stoty telling and quality of life depicted within the crime novel.
I would warmly recommend this series by Andrea Camilleri and suggest you start with this first book that introduces us to Inspector Montalbano.
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164 of 171 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Man of Respect Cleans Up Messes in Sicily, 21 Jun 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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The Shape of Water is a fine European-style mystery (lots of action with the little grey cells and little physical action) that will appeal to most readers who enjoy police procedurals. The main attraction in the book is the detective, Inspector Salvo Montalbano, who strives to do the right thing for the right reason. That can be a challenge in the midst of the corruption that seems to surround him in Vigata on Sicily. Like many fictional detectives, he's fixated on his work . . . even to the point of having a long-distance relationship with his girl friend so he can keep working all the time. There is a lot of subtle humor in the book as he organizes his day to avoid having his zealous and sometimes incompetent colleagues make messes while ensuring that he has fine meals whenever possible. The story itself depends on witty juxtapositions that create irony of the sort that one often hears used in stories told by people in Italy. Be sure to refer to the notes in the back to understand many of the references. The book's main drawback is that the sentence structure is often extremely long and convoluted. The last sentence on the first page has 96 words in it, for example. Mr. Camilleri will never be confused with Mr. Hemingway.
I have also read The Terra-Cotta Dog and The Snack Thief by Mr. Camilleri and found them to be remarkably fine novels. I encourage you to read this book with the understanding that good things await you. I suggest that you begin your introduction to Mr. Camilleri with The Shape of Water because the other two stories build on the character and plot developments in this one.
When the Shape of Water was first translated into English, I read several reviews of the book in national publications and found what I read about the book in them to be unappealing. Having read the book, I now find that those reviews and some of the jacket blurbs are at odds with my reading of the book. Let me see if I can clarify what this book is all about for you.
First, Mantalbano is simply a man who wants justice done. He is not a vigilante, but he will bend any rule or say anything necessary to achieve his ends. He's a practical cynic who understands how the misguided self-interest of others will pervert justice if he does not watch out. Yet, at bottom, he has sympathy for others and wants to be helpful to them. As he goes about it, he has a charm that reminds me of Hercule Poirot. While Poirot was fussy about everything, Mantalbano is mainly fussy about food.
Second, the humor here is laid on with a trowel through large contrasts. For instance, the man who supervises the local sex workers is his school friend. Montalbano finds himself both working with and against his friend in ways that will amuse you. Two well-educated surveyors cannot find work and must become garbage collectors. They get their jobs by doing political favors. Mantalbano ends up helping them more than their own machinations with politicians provided. However, it's not Stephanie Plum humor. It's more like Dante's humor, as he assigned his enemies to various rings in the Inferno. Seldom will you laugh aloud, but you will be smiling at and enjoying his jabs as they occur.
Third, although there's a lot of corruption going on, it's not so extreme that you enter a world that you cannot recognize. The exaggeration is there, but mainly to make the point . . . not to paint a dark shadow over the book. That said, some of the worst hidden corruption is pretty disgusting. But good works will out, and your faith will be reaffirmed in the potential to right wrongs.
As I finished this story, I was reminded that keeping one's sense of humor during difficult times is a very good idea.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A revelation, 26 Oct 2007
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is the first book I read in the series about Montalbano, and I have since gone on to read as many more as I can find. He's a breath of fresh air. His Sicilian attitudes and his obssession with his stomach make a wonderful foil to the gritty and often violent crimes that he is forced to deal with. Despite their modern settings and the corruption and politics that Camilleri uses in his work there is something wonderfully old fashioned about both Montalbano and his detecting techniques which make him a real character worthy of standing shoulder to shoulder with greats like Morse and Rebus.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Italian police novel, 13 Sep 2006
By 
Linda Oskam "dutch-traveller" (Amsterdam Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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Inspector Montalbano of the police force in the small Sicilian town of Vigata has to investigate the death of Silvio Lupanetto, an engineer and local political hotshot of the reigning christian democratic party. Mr Lupanetto has died of a massive heart attack while having sex, but the place where his body is found is suspicious: why would a cautious man like him go to the local prostitute and drug area? The inspector's investigations give a nice insight into Italian wheeling and dealing: sex schandals, rich people with an attitude, the Mafia, left versus right, corruption and bribing. In short, everything we Europeans suspect Italy to be. Italy is a lot more, but in this novel there are only hints of good food and drinks, a great culture and a lovely countryside.

The book is written in a very fluent style and the story has a number of twists and turns which makes it an enjoyable read. I would say 3' stars, so let's make it 4 because this is the first book of a series and character of the inspector may still grow.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic introduction to Montalbano crime series, 4 Oct 2004
By 
J. Stack (Kildare, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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Simple excellent. Lives up to the hype and then some more....
A new slant on the crime novel...
If you enjoy top notch crime writing, JL Burke, M.Connelly, W Mosley, from the US angle, here is the Sicilian flavour...
Simply outstanding with laugh out loud moments with good plotting...
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Man of Respect Cleans Up Messes in Sicily, 21 Jun 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Shape of Water (Hardcover)
The Shape of Water is a fine European-style mystery (lots of action with the little grey cells and little physical action) that will appeal to most readers who enjoy police procedurals. The main attraction in the book is the detective, Inspector Salvo Montalbano, who strives to do the right thing for the right reason. That can be a challenge in the midst of the corruption that seems to surround him in Vigata on Sicily. Like many fictional detectives, he's fixated on his work . . . even to the point of having a long-distance relationship with his girl friend so he can keep working all the time. There is a lot of subtle humor in the book as he organizes his day to avoid having his zealous and sometimes incompetent colleagues make messes while ensuring that he has fine meals whenever possible. The story itself depends on witty juxtapositions that create irony of the sort that one often hears used in stories told by people in Italy. Be sure to refer to the notes in the back to understand many of the references. The book's main drawback is that the sentence structure is often extremely long and convoluted. The last sentence on the first page has 96 words in it, for example. Mr. Camilleri will never be confused with Mr. Hemingway.
I have also read The Terra-Cotta Dog and The Snack Thief by Mr. Camilleri and found them to be remarkably fine novels. I encourage you to read this book with the understanding that good things await you. I suggest that you begin your introduction to Mr. Camilleri with The Shape of Water because the other two stories build on the character and plot developments in this one.
When the Shape of Water was first translated into English, I read several reviews of the book in national publications and found what I read about the book in them to be unappealing. Having read the book, I now find that those reviews and some of the jacket blurbs are at odds with my reading of the book. Let me see if I can clarify what this book is all about for you.
First, Mantalbano is simply a man who wants justice done. He is not a vigilante, but he will bend any rule or say anything necessary to achieve his ends. He's a practical cynic who understands how the misguided self-interest of others will pervert justice if he does not watch out. Yet, at bottom, he has sympathy for others and wants to be helpful to them. As he goes about it, he has a charm that reminds me of Hercule Poirot. While Poirot was fussy about everything, Mantalbano is mainly fussy about food.
Second, the humor here is laid on with a trowel through large contrasts. For instance, the man who supervises the local sex workers is his school friend. Montalbano finds himself both working with and against his friend in ways that will amuse you. Two well-educated surveyors cannot find work and must become garbage collectors. They get their jobs by doing political favors. Mantalbano ends up helping them more than their own machinations with politicians provided. However, it's not Stephanie Plum humor. It's more like Dante's humor, as he assigned his enemies to various rings in the Inferno. Seldom will you laugh aloud, but you will be smiling at and enjoying his jabs as they occur.
Third, although there's a lot of corruption going on, it's not so extreme that you enter a world that you cannot recognize. The exaggeration is there, but mainly to make the point . . . not to paint a dark shadow over the book. That said, some of the worst hidden corruption is pretty disgusting. But good works will out, and your faith will be reaffirmed in the potential to right wrongs.
As I finished this story, I was reminded that keeping one's sense of humor during difficult times is a very good idea.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling, 7 July 2008
By 
S. Williams - See all my reviews
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I began this book on a wet Sunday morning lying on the sofa and instantly became hooked...at the time of reading it, I wished I could have read faster as i was so desperate to know 'who dunnit'. I really enjoyed the book and am definately considering buying more in the series.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter Montalbano, 27 May 2006
By 
RAMON (Santander, SPAIN) - See all my reviews
This is the first in Montalbano Series. Camilleri is one of the few writers who has had 5 books in the top 10 in Italy at the same time.

Montalbano is a policeman who lives in Sicily, because he loves the land and its people. Montalbano lives in Vigatá, a village that resembles the author's native town of Porto Empedocle, a part of the Montelusa province, another name for Agrigento. So he lives where Pirandello was born and shares some of his "absurd" universe.

In this case he has to investigate the shameful death of an important local politician (don't forget that Operation Clean Hands was taking place at the time when the novel was written). As he investigates, he has to understand and remember that things are not always what they seem. Like water, reality can be shaped to take another meaning. He will know about the politician, his family, his political "friends", the other families...

Justice is hard to come by, and always with toil. The Mafia is always in the background, but without the glamour of the Padrino series: for Camilleri, the Mafia is a disease and has no likable feature.
A good read, if only to understand how politics work.
Another good thing is that even if the publisher advetises it about a novel of crime and food, this is no turist guide but a dive into reality.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nicely Understated Debut, 10 Sep 2002
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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The Inspector Montalbano series is hugely popular in Europe, and with this book, the Sicilian policeman makes his English language debut. Set in a fictional town, the story is set into motion by the discovery of the partially naked body of an influential local politician in a seedy lot used by prostitutes. While the coroner finds no evidence of foul play, Inspector Montalbano's curiosity is piqued by several oddities surrounding the matter. From then on it's a pleasure to watch him elegantly glide through the matter, moving from witness, to informant, to widow, all the while gathering information. I'm not sure why, but some reviews have described him as a lethargic, cynical, and reluctant character-which he is none of. He is realistic within the constraints of the highly political and corrupt system, but he has a huge streak of compassion and empathy, and is certainly not lethargic. There are no big surprises at the end, but the real treat is in the journey and getting to know this likable policeman. A small note: the cover of the hardcover edition bears the curious tagline "a novel of food, wine and homicide in small town Sicily". I say curious because I can't recall a single mention of wine, and only two or three meals are described, and then only very briefly-so I'm not sure why the publisher felt the need to make a pretense of gastronomic delights. In any event, it's deftly translated and nicely understated book that gives a very tangible sense of Sicily.
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