Saturday nights on the UK’s BBC4 TV channel were improved immeasurably when they started showing the Inspector Montalbano series of crime dramas, with subtitles. From the dark, really dark, noir of Swedish and Danish crimes across the Bridge and elsewhere, we were treated to the light and heat of Sicily – even in winter. The only downside is that I’m reading the books and remember the episodes. The good thing is, I remember the episodes and the scenery as I read the books, but can’t for the life of me remember the twists in the tale or whodunnit until I get there!
I’m steadily working my way through the books on my kindle now (in English) and get to enjoy the beautiful phrasing of the author Signor Andrea (pronounced And-ray-a) Camilleri, as translated by Stephen Sartarelli. My brother reads these in Italian, and constantly advises me of the amusement of switching between Sicilian dialect and Italian in the stories, which is probably the only thing that gets lost in translation, since (policeman) Catarella’s inability to get words right is well presented, and the different statuses of the protagonists shown in formality of speech.
Excursion to Tindari
(Commissario Montalbano #5)Andrea Camilleri
We start with the body of a young man on the steps of an apartment block, and later the same day we have a missing couple. From the same apartment block. Police procedure demands that no-one jumps to conclusions. Montalbano works his staff hard to uncover the last known whereabouts of the missing couple, and Catarella works just as hard on the computer discs and other software found in the dead man’s apartment. After plenty of red herrings, fresh mackerel cooked in oil and served with tagliatelle, and posturing from Montalbano’s boss, the Inspector makes the connection and unravels the lies and deceits to find the truth. Yes, I’ve forgotten whodunnit already!
The Scent of the Night
(Commissario Montalbano #6)Andrea Camilleri
The inhabitants of Vigata and the surrounding area are incensed when the person to whom they have entrusted their savings fails to turn up with their dividend. In fact he fails to turn up at all, and the disappearance of his young member of staff adds to the outrage. An elderly man dies as a result of the loss of all his money, and Montalbano steps in to find out what happened to the money. With a besotted secretary carrying on as if the miscreant will return any day, and a couple of young women carrying on as if Montalbano will fall for their charms, the inspector has his hands full. Add to that a bit of inter-Sicilian police rivalry, and he could be forgiven for throwing up his hands and leaving it all to his men while he takes a holiday with his fiancée. But Montalbano never lets his intended get in the way of work, a long-running rankle through the series, and of course he eventually finds his way to the macabre truth.
Note that the UK edition is called the Scent of the Night, the US version the Smell of the Night, but the US blurb is far better than the UK one!
I find it hard to review these books as such, since I simply enjoy them so much, I just look forward to the next one each time. Sometimes one just wants to relax with a good book that conjures up mountains, sea and sunshine, with a good bit of intellectual stimulation, and this series does the trick – with added gourmet cooking.