The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri (Book Review)
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Set in Sicily
(Sicilia)
 ©1994
English Translation ©2002
 
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THEME

Andrea Camilleri

The Inspector Salvo Montalbano Mystery Series

The Shape of Water
(La forma dell'acqua)

(Translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli)

JACKET NOTES:  Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano has become a phenomenal success whose adventures have been translated from Italian in eight languages, from Dutch to Japanese. ‘The Shape of Water’ is the first book in a sly, witty, engaging series, with a sardonic take on Sicilian life.

The goats of Vigata once grazed on the trash-strewn, sirocco-swept site still known as the Pasture. Now local enterprise of a different sort flourishes: drug dealers and prostitutes of every flavor. But their discreet trade is upset when two employees of the Splendor Refuse Collection Company discover the body of engineer Silvio Luparello, one of the local movers and shakers--apparently deceased in flagrante at the Pasture. The coroner’s verdict is death from natural causes--refreshingly unusual for Sicily. But Inspector Salvo Montalbano, as honest as he is streetwise and as scathing to fools and villains as he is compassionate to their victims, is not ready to close the case--even though he’s being pressured by Vigata’s police chief, judge, and bishop.

Picking his way nimbly through a labyrinth of high-comedy corruption, delicious meals, vendetta firepower, and carefully planted false clues, Montalbano can be relied on, whatever the cost, to get to the heart of the matter.
(© Viking Books)


BOOK REVIEW

THE SHAPE OF WATER is the first in Camilleri’s series of contemporary mystery novels featuring Inspector Salvo Montalbano and set in Vigáta, a fictional seacoast town in southern Sicily. One can’t help but love this Montalbano character. He’s an unpretentious and honest Italian policeman who doesn’t care who he offends when he is intent on solving the crime of the moment. In this case, there doesn’t seem to be a crime at all when an influential local contractor is found dead in a very compromising situation. The deceased Silvio Luparello appears to have had a last fling with a prostitute and suffered a massive and fatal heart attack in the process. Montalbano becomes suspicious when a powerful politician, a judge, and a bishop all apply pressure to quickly close the investigation. Our hero manages to get a 48-hour extension during which he sorts it all out.

Camilleri is a master at describing this part of Sicily and the vast array of interesting characters local to the area. Montalbano’s many colleagues in the Questura are a delightful bunch of guys. Livia, his ladyfriend, is in Genoa and much of their relationship is over the phone. He is often tempted by other beautiful women but always remains faithful. Any Italian story, worth it’s salt, has to talk about food. Camilleri does not disappoint -- Montalbano not only has a housekeeper, Adelina, who always leaves his refrigerator stocked with mouth-watering local seafood delicacies; but his commissario’s wife regularly invites him to dinner to sample her creative recipes.

Stephen Sartarelli does an admirable job in translating Camilleri’s novel from the Italian. While reading THE SHAPE OF WATER, you always get the sense that this is an Italian mystery about Italian characters and written by a superb Italian author.
- by Carlo Vennarucci, November 2003