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Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series now numbers six or seven titles, and this
is one of the best. Originally written in Italian and set in Sicily, there is no
shortage of great scenery, good food, sly politics, corruption, and fatal mistakes.
As a good Sicilian cop, Inspector Montalbano doesn't reveal much as the story
develops - to the reader, his colleagues, or his girlfriend. Yet he is always
conscious of the multiple layers of meaning in the actions and words of his
superiors and his suspects alike. In keeping with the setting, there are classical
themes at work - notably tragedy and fate. Good and bad people alike overreach,
suffer, and occasionally pay a terrible price, or make fools of
themselves.Camilleri's characters, always strongly described, also share a streak of
rough and ancient comedy. As one translation of Artistotle's Poetics puts it, "the
ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly", there is plenty of ugliness in
Sicilian life, and Camilleri uses it for great comic effect. Readers of Donna Leon's
books set in and around Venice will find here the antipode of northern Italian life.
The only disappointing thing about this and all of the Inspector Montalbano books is
that they end too soon.
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