on 5 October 2013
One of the main things that I've liked about Camilleri's Montalbano books is that they generally do not follow the current crime fiction trend of dark stories involving sadistic violence, serial killers, blood and gore. (It's not just that I find such content disturbing: I also find it disturbing that anyone should choose to read - or watch - such stuff for "pleasure".)
Camilleri's books might have contained the occasional gory murder or dark episode, but the prevailing mood has been light and humorous. But not with this book! Here we have a grim murder, the details of which I did not enjoy reading.
The first half of the book follows the usual enjoyable Camilleri formula, which consists of Montalbano's quirky character; lots of humour; and the occasional glimpse of social criticism from Camilleri's left-leaning perspective. I laughed out loud several times early on, and I have to admit the truth in my own case of a perceptive comment about the aging process: "...that at a certain age you become intolerant and don't let a single thing slide."
The social comment this time includes a reference to the ugliness of the housing built for the working class, and a description of the big-time criminals as being: "The CEOs who drive their companies to bankruptcy after making off with people's savings, the banks who are always finding a way to screw their customers, the big companies who steal public funds."
The second half, however, becomes more tense, but also contains a description of the aftermath of a gory and sadistic murder which spoiled the book for me.
Overall I am a great fan of Montalbano (the TV version as well as the books), but I'm not an uncritical one. "The Age of Doubt" was disappointing, and I didn't like the paranormal episodes that appear in a couple of the stories, such as the telepathic twins in "August Heat". As for this one, let's put it this way: I enjoy rereading the best Montalbanos after a year or so, but I won't be reading this one again.
on 1 October 2013
I discovered Montalbano earlier this summer and read 15 books in just under six weeks! Unputdownable: witty, amusing and very clever. I was anxiously awaiting "The Treasure Hunt". Hurrah, even better than the Dance of the Seagull. The characters become richer and richer in detail and complexities: I adore Catarella and his "pewters", even the irritating Livia grows with each volume - I sympathise with Salvo's housekeeper...... And the mouthwatering food, I must go to Enzo even though Montalbano points out that he is unadventurous in the kitchen, quickly adding that the quality is so good that adventure is not necessary.
Good in this volume to meet the lovely Swedish Ingrid again, another cleverly developed character.
Stephen Sartarelli is a first class translator, those thoughtful notes really help understanding. The whole book flows as though it were written in English and even the crazy poems for the treasure hunt ring authentic. I don't know where M. Sartarelli lives in France, I'd love to meet him and shake his hand in gratitude for bringing such humour and intelligent Italian writing into the English sphere.
I know there are more volumes in Italian (if only I could read Italian - worth learning for Camillieri and so many other good authors perhaps) - so M. Sartarelli get translating fast please I need another Montalbano book very soon-
New readers do not start here....... Begin at the beginning and read the books in order, there is a background story which builds and builds and indeed the events of an earlier book are often referred to in later volumes.
This is 88-year old Andrea Camilleri’s sixteenth detective novel in English centred on Inspector Salvo Montalbano, now aged 57. On the basis of this book, the author is aging rather better than his character. Once again, the translation is in the capable hands of Stephen Sartarelli.
The action opens with two aged reclusive siblings, Gregorio and Caterina Palmisano, shooting at the ‘sinners’ in the street below their extensive Vigàta apartment. They are quickly arrested and taken to a mental hospital. However, when Montalbano and his Sicilian team, Mimi Augello [who, at one stage, leaves his boss flabbergasted], Fazio, Gallo and Gulluzzo, begin to explore the darkened rooms they discover religious artefacts and pictures, grand pianos and a decrepid and much-patched inflated doll.
This event is rather welcome since there is very little happening on the crime front and Camilleri creates a rather reflective Montalbano, wondering whether his reaction to searching the room was an indication of his feeling his age. The detective rails against modern language when his mechanic gives him bad news about his car [‘’I’m afraid she’s ready to be junked, Inspector.’ The use of that verb set his nerves on edge. Whenever he heard it, whenever he read it, his balls immediately started to spin. And it wasn’t the only word that had this effect on him. There were others: securitise, contingency, restructuring, as per, precurrent and dozens more. Languages long dead invented wonderful words they handed down to us for eternity. Whereas our modern languages, when they died – which was inevitable, since every tongue on earth was becoming a colony of American English, itself dying a slow death by suicide – what words would they hand down to posterity? Junked? Kickback? Normalcy?’]
However, his mood is changed when he finds an envelope at home addressed to him and titled ‘Treasure Hunt’. Inside is a cryptic riddle, the first of many such messages, all very cleverly translated into English by Sartarelli. At first Montalbano wonders whether to play along but, as there is little else to occupy him, he decides to match his wits against his anonymous challenger. A second inflated doll, very similar to the first, is then found in a dustbin. There seem to be little linking all these occurrences.
As the pace picks up in the second half of the book it becomes very much darker than any of Camilleri’s earlier stories. Unfortunately, this darkness is introduced at the expense of the plot that must be one of the flimsiest in the whole series. For this reason, readers new to Montalbano would be well advised not to read this book first, ideally they should work their way through the series chronologically to see how a master gradually builds characters and location.
What saves this book from disappointing is the deftness with which the partnership of author and translator keep Montalbano in embarrassing situations some of which relate to his personal examinations of the two dolls – just where is the best place to keep them?. Livia, the Inspector’s longsuffering girlfriend is a very peripheral character in this book and very few of the new characters are memorable.
But the writing sweeps all these downsides away. When the Inspector is driving around following another clue he ‘remembered the criteria that every zoning office, in every town hall in Italy – all of them, without exception, from the biggest cities to the smallest towns – used for naming their streets. The most central streets were always, without fail, named after abstract things, like liberty, republic and independence; the slightly less central streets, after political figures of the past, like Cavour, Zanardelli, Crispi; the streets just outside of those, after other, more recent political figures, like De Gasperi, Einaudi and Togliatti. And then, as you got further from the centre, came heroes, military leaders, mathematicians, scientists and industrialists, until you came to a few dentists.’]
Camilleri does not disappoint with his pointed references to Italian political and social issues, and the details of the local cuisine, although I fancy that fewer are described in Sartarelli’s usual Notes. Perhaps because the plot did not grip, I found Catarella’s mangled diction starting to grate.
The author’s wit and humour give way to the dark ending that has an element of ‘in a flash he was free’ about it. This book will certainly please Montalbano fans but I hope that the next book in the series, the first chapter of which is printed at the end of this book, will see a rejuvenated detective and much juicier plotting.
on 4 October 2013
Like other readers, I came across Montalbano by chance and was compelled to read all of the other books within weeks. There are so many fascinating streams that run through each book; the interaction between the recurring characters (great to see Ingrid return), especially Montalbano and his suave sidekick Augello - the jealous petulance is witty and makes you love Montalbano even more. I love the references to food, relying on Steven Sartarelli's notes at the back which are a clever inclusion. It's perhaps not the best storyline of the series, as you will no doubt work it out before Montalbano, but the quirks (where else would inflatable dolls fit neatly into a script) and wit make it thoroughly readable. I would suggest that new readers start at the beginning as you need the background of each character to appreciate their roles. Unlike so many books that you read, no character is a filler - they are all cleverly and intrinsically linked to our fabulous protagonist. Without doubt, my favourite series of books!
on 7 January 2015
Montalbano stories are interesting, amusing and full of people whose eccentricities and foibles are recognizable. The main characters have many moods but are consistent in their basic behaviours making them believable as genuine people.
This story has twists and turns, making Montalbano think and reflect in his usual way, despite his life's distractions and he eventually solves the crime.
What I enjoy about these books is that a conventional happy ending is unlikely. Although the answer to the crime may be actually quite simple, it takes persistent delving to piece all the bits of evidence together, and then work out what they mean. Montalbano deals with all this by being true to himself with all his faults, while showing his humanity all along the way.
on 14 March 2015
I love Montalbano, which probably accounts for my rave rating!
The crime is definitely a gory episode. Montalbano has a crisis of confidence regarding his age. There is a psychological treasure hunt, which as another reviewer has said, makes for difficult reading, but unfortunately, there are such sick people in the world.
Having said that there are still the usual amusing characters, strained relationship with Livia and a little bit of moralising. Some of the scenes are hilarious. The sun shines, the food and wine are good. Never a taxing read, it is non the less enjoyable.
on 17 November 2014
I have read all of the Inspector Montalbano books. I have enjoyed most of them. Actually, I do find with these books, that one never knows quite how gruesome the crime, usually a murder, will be. There have been one or two earlier ones which I did not find to be particularly palatable. However, the inspector himself is such an interesting man, & his relationships with the various other people in the books, are written of in a way that one feels as if they are all somehow familiar. I just wish this story did not have to be so dreadfully gruesome. I do not like to read of men doing such things to a woman. I do not like to read about psychopaths. So, I will not be reading anymore of this book.