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Love at first sight.. the unadulterated joy of meeting Inspector Salvo Montalbano and his consorts in Vigàta, Sicily.
on 7 May 2017
Oh, what an unadulterated interlude The Voice of the Violin proved to be! Serving as my introduction to the highly acclaimed Inspector Salvo Montalbano series, I had been under the illusion that these novels would be rather dry affairs, perhaps because of the glimpses I have caught of the TV adaptations. It took a recommendation for me to take the plunge, see the error of my ways and be utterly beguiled by the charming, witty and colourful characters who fill the world of Camilleri. On occasions stopping just short of farce, The Voice of the Violin proved to be a hilarious crime caper. It only took two chapters for me to feel like I was amongst friends, instantly at home in Vigàta, Sicily and watching the fractious and frequently obnoxious Inspector Montalbano deftly navigating his way through the murky world of Italian bureaucracy, politics and criminal movers and shakers. Relying on a combination of his wits, humour, honesty, frequently unorthodox methods and a quid pro quo philosophy, Montalbano is a comic gem!
Waking up to grey skies at his home in Marinella and remembering the telephone call of the previous night from the intellectually challenged and frankly incoherent Catarella (Cat), sees irascible Montalbano start the day with an ominous feeling in the pit of his stomach. Cat ("Izzatchoo oona line?") has been assigned to answering the station's phone in the mistaken belief that he can do less damage in that role than any other. However it hasn't stopped him forgetting to inform his boss of a funeral that he must attend the very next morning. Arriving to transport him is the stations official driver, Gallo, and something off a boy racer which explains his prang with a bottle-green Renault Twingo on the outward journey. Despite other unforeseen events meaning that Montalbano misses the funeral, when he returns he notices the note attached to Twingo has not been removed and there is no sign of activity in the only house to which it seemingly belongs. His interest aroused, Montalbano pays a unofficial visit in the manner of a common thief later that evening only to discover the naked body of a murdered young woman, but how is he to bring this to police attention? The obvious answer seems to be through his friendship with mother figure, Signora Clementine Vasile Cozzo and her anonymous tip-offs! The chance to listen to the reclusive violin maestro Cataldo Barbera playing his weekly recital is merely a by-product of his visit to the remarkably astute elderly lady.
This is just the start of a encounter which sees the woman identified as Mrs Michela Licalzi, the gorgeous and much younger wife of an eminent orthopaedic surgeon. Some digging and fraternising with a close friend of Michela's, in the form of enigmatic Anna Tropeano, sees Montalbano uncover an antiques-dealing lover in Bologna and a besotted mentally disturbed local man, Maurizio Di Blasi. Internal politics and the animosity of the new Commissioner Bonetti-Alderighi sees Montalbano replaced on the investigation by the Captain of the Flying Squad, whereby a quick and murky conclusion leaves a bad taste and sees Montalbano pursue his own below the radar investigation. Leaning on friends, including journalist and television news anchorman, Nicolò Zito, calling in favours and employing devious methods sees Montalbano live to fight another day and come up smelling of roses. The very best position is watching from the sidelines as he does so!
One mistake after another seems to sum this case up, but in the matter of his love life with the tempestuous Livia, will Salvo Montalbano do the honourable thing? The flawless translation courtesy of Stephen Sartarelli ensured every iota of character, wit and warmth was conveyed through the pages.
Whilst I am normally pretty indifferent to adhering to the order of a series other readers have suggested that life in Vigàta does benefit from doing so, hence after being utterly charmed by my first encounter I have subsequently ordered books one to ten!
Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)