Inspector Salvo Montalbano has been going through some age-related adjustments over the past couple of books in this rich crime series. His life and the stories have been suffering a bit from the esteemed Inspector's preoccupations with physical changes (at age 57), diminishing tolerance of Sicilian/Italian politics and bureaucracy and an overall decrease in confidence in satisfaction with his job performance. Despite the thrashing around, Montalbano has pretty much been able to pull it together by the end of each book (always with some help from the kitchen).
"The Dance of the Seagull" follows this general direction and delivers a pretty satisfactory read by the last page. The story opens with some horribly uncomfortable moments of total miscommunication between Montalbano and his long-time main squeeze, Livia. He does something that literally set my teeth on edge for twenty or so pages and calls into question his continuing relationship with Livia or any other woman. His excuse for the blunder is tied to the disappearance of one of his closest lieutenants, who eventually resurfaces badly banged up and in the middle of a terrible murder scenario. A typical Montalbano procedural ensues, with the Inspector operating as a Lone Ranger in the investigation, frustrating his colleagues and boss. What keeps "The Dance..." from meeting the high standards earlier Montalbano stories is the overly convoluted motivations of the villains of the piece (Mafioso with a big secret, the Mafia itself and greedy others in league with Russians and Arab terrorists) and other exotica that are a little tough for the reader to wholly swallow.
Ultimately, Salvo catches the bad guys, covers his own weird tracks and settles down for a big plate of carponata. What's missing at the end is much resolution to his mid-life crisis and mending of his dented relations with friends and colleagues. You might say, "Who cares?--this is a crime novel". But the Montalbano stories are way beyond just crime stories. The characters count; and above all the character of the principal counts a great deal. The reader (OK, me) needs some reassurance that this guy is going to be alright in the end.
This is a very fine series--the writing and translation still shine in many important ways, I hope that there's some character evolution coming in future books. And I hope also that there will be many more of these books.