Although I’ve watched every episode of both “Inspector Montalbano” and “Young Montalbano” shown over here on BBC4 I’ve never read any of the books on which they are based. This is the first in the sequence published in the UK in 2003. Those of you who want to be strictly chronological may wish to start with Camilleri’s 2013 collection “Montalbano’s First Case & Other Stories” but I’m going with the order by publication date.
So far Camilleri has produced twenty of these Italian bestsellers up to 2016’s “A Voice In The Night”with the next two scheduled (“A Nest Of Vipers” is due to be published in August 2017) so I have a fair bit of catching up to do. I did find myself remembering the TV adaptation quite well as I was reading this (I’m usually a bit of a stickler for reading the book first) and I couldn’t get Luca Zingaretti’s portrayal of the Inspector out of my head.
Plotwise, a local notable is found dead in his car at a known cruising ground, partially clad and having recently had a good time. It’s believed to be a fairly scandalous natural causes heart attack but Montalbano thinks differently. On the same site a valuable necklace is found by two waste disposal men and there is obviously some link between the jewellery and the dead man. Despite some rather tortuous long sentences at the beginning of the novel this settles into a quick and relatively easy read. The glory of Sicily does not come across, obviously, as well as it does on the television but here, in this translation by Stephen Saratelli you don’t need to read the subtitles. Once you’re drawn into the Italian way of complex local political manoeuvrings and a different kind of logic and Camilleri writing more than you’d expect with tongue firmly in cheek this provides a very satisfactory introduction to these quirky crime capers. At times I could feel the influence of prolific French author Georges Simenon (Camilleri worked on a TV production of “Maigret” before embarking on his writing career) and that’s certainly no bad thing.
The Shape Of Water was published by Picador in 2003