I love the Inspector Montalbano novels. For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, they are mysteries set in Sicily, with an insouciant inspector, a rag-tag staff, and delicious food in almost every chapter. The food alone would make me a fan of the novels, since Inspector Montalbano takes food almost as seriously as I do, and the foods he eats seem to jump off the page and wrap themselves around my tongue.
These books fascinate me because I feel like the capture the spirit of the place they are set in, and I can see why they became a big hit in the States after they started being translated into English. The characters have intelligent, snappy dialogue, and they are complex, developed individuals whom you really get to know as you travel through the series, although one can read the books alone as well, of course. There’s also interesting procedural detective work, for people into that kind of thing, along with dark nights of the soul and intense brooding on the part of the Inspector. I like that. It humanizes him.
The mysteries themselves are usually fascinatingly complex and not at all like one would expect them to be, as was the case with this book, which featured two seemingly unconnected events and a myriad of careful steps which led the Inspector to realize how they were linked. I don’t really want to get into too much detail, as that would kind of spoil the book for people who haven’t read it, but I will note that the book deals with serious contemporary issues, like many of his other books, and I like that. Instead of occurring in an abstract vacuum, the book forces readers to think about things going on in the world.
Vigata, the fictional town in which these books are set, seems like the kind of place I would like to live someday. It seems like a friendly, pleasant sort of place with interesting people and good corner cafes at which one can get decent pastry and a well crafted hot chocolate, and I like that in a town.
Excursion to Tindari, by Andrea Camilleri. Translated by Steven Sartarelli. Published 2005, 295 pages. Fiction.