by Andrea Camilleri; translated by Stephen Sartarelli
When two disgruntled garbage collectors are sent to a notorious sector used by pimps, whores, drug dealers and their respective customers, they stumble on two shocking things.
One finds, and quickly pockets, a gold and diamond necklace. While not tasteful, it is clearly valuable.
The second finds a large, green BMW with a dead man inside.
The pair freeze in terror — not because the man is dead — but because the dead man is Silvio Luparello, a political party boss, the power behind the throne and the holder of 80 percent of the government building contracts let in the Sicilian town of Vigàta. Only days earlier, he had been named provincial party secretary.
For the coroner, it’s clear the man had a heart attack while having sex. But Inspector Salvo Montalbano, the star of this series, sees much more: namely an attempt to make Luparello’s death as embarrassing as possible. Montalbano finds it highly unlikely that a powerful, wealthy man like Luparello would be having sex in a car in a notorious area. Further, the inspector observes, some of Luparello’s clothes are on backwards and others are missing, as if he had been dressed and moved after death.
The oddness of the case tweaks Montalbano’s reknowned curiousity and dogged desire for the truth.
While the powers that be pressure him to call the case a natural death and let it go, Montalbano hangs on until he gets his answers. What he finds is that the case is as hard to hang on to as water.
This is a tangled tale of patronage and power, revenge and rivalry. Inspector Montalbano is creative, stubborn and knows his small community well. Author Andrea Camilleri has created a wonderful backdrop for this story, based on his own experiences growing up in a small Sicilian town.
Camilleri carried his stories of Inspector Montalbano through more than 20 novels. While many have been translated into English, not all have. The books available in English are:
- THE TERRA-COTTA DOG
- THE SNACK THIEF
- VOICE OF THE VIOLIN
- EXCURSION TO TINDARI
- THE SMELL OF THE NIGHT
- ROUNDING THE MARK
- THE PATIENCE OF THE SPIDER
- THE PAPER MOON
- AUGUST HEAT
- THE WINGS OF THE SPHINX
- THE TRACK OF SAND
- THE POTTER’S FIELD
- THE AGE OF DOUBT
- THE DANCE OF THE SEAGULL
- TREASURE HUNT
- ANGELICA’S SMILE
- GAME OF MIRRORS
- A BEAM OF LIGHT
- A VOICE IN THE NIGHT
- A NEST OF VIPERS
- THE PYRAMID OF MUD
- THE OVERNIGHT KIDNAPPER
About the Author: Andrea Camilleri (1925 – 2019)
This book, the first in Andrea Camilleri’s wildly successful Inspector Montalbano series, wasn’t published until 1994, when Camilleri was 69.
Four books into the series, the “Il Commissario Montalbano” series hit Italian television. It has also appeared on Britain’s BBC.
The first English translations of the books appeared in 2002 and quickly picked up a following that included many book critics.
Camilleri was born in a southwestern Sicilian town that became a model for Montalbano’s Vigàta. His father, Giuseppe Camilleri, worked for the Italian Coast Guard. The elder Camilleri, according to his son in a 2007 interview with the British newspaper, The Independent, was a hardline Fascist until a day in 1938 when Andrea told him a friend had been barred from school because he was Jewish.
Camilleri earned a degree in modern literature at the University of Palermo. In his youth, he had had some success as a poet. He became involved in theatrical productions and in 1949 won a scholarship to study at the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Rome. He only lasted a year there but continued working as a stage director.
He was hired by the Italian TV network RAI’s radio division in 1958 and then switched to the television side directing and adapting scripts. In 1974, he started teaching theater at the National Academy and continued to do so for more than 20 years.
By the late 1960s, he had started writing novels, although the first of these wasn’t published until 1978. He wrote other novels in different genres but none got much attention. Stuck on one novel, he started a detective story, which grew into the Commissario Montalbano series.