Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Triple dip of Montalbanos

Here's another series that I enjoy immensely. These were perfect Murder and Mayhem reads. Inspector Montalbano is acerbic, sarcastic, intuitive, sympatico, and still dealing with a reluctance to marry, a superior who hates him (the feeling is mutual), and the always present Mafia.

I've been catching up on ones I've missed in this series. They are the perfect short, snappy, funny, twisty plotted, scenes of Sicily to while away a lazy afternoon, to listen to while I swim or sew, or read on the deck enjoying a spring breeze. These three are numbers 6, 11, and 13 in the series. I have only two more to catch up on before the newest one appears later this summer.

Inspector Montalbano and his relationship to his team of detectives and police are the story in all of these. There are varied plots and crimes to solve:

In The Smell of the Night, Salvo Montalbano is faced with a financial crime and a missing person.  An investment guru has evidently milked hundreds of people out of their life savings, failed to pay them their expected dividends  and absconded with the money.   Is it a Ponzi scheme gone seriously awry? The only person who believes in his innocence is his secretary MariaStella and she's too upset and too trusting in her boss to be much help.  Two prevailing theories abound surrounding the accountant's disappearance:  he ran away and is now living the high life on a beach on some far off island paradise, or he somehow failed to pay the expected dividends to some higher up in the Mafia and is now feeding the fish in the Mediterranean Sea to atone for his transgressions.  Montalbano's superiors are ready to blame this on the Mafia and move on.  Salvo has far too many unanswered questions to let it go, and sets off to find the answers.  The ending to this one is well-written and definitely a true shocker.

Montalbano exhibits some of his educational and cultural background as he leads his team in solving the mystery of the murder of a body found buried in The Potter's Field.  The body was dismembered and chopped into 30 pieces.  It has had all identifying features removed, and the only clue Salvo has as to its identity is the partial dental bridge discovered in the deceased's stomach during the autopsy.  At the same time, Livia--Salvo's girlfriend, is driving him crazy by reporting constantly on her conversations with the wife of one of his trusty associates, Mimi Arguello, implying that Salvo is making Mimi work too many late nights.  Salvo knows this is not true but can't decide how to approach the subject with Mimi.  As always in this series, it is the relationship Salvo has with his team, as well as his relationship with Livia, and his deep sense of right and wrong (as opposed to legal and illegal) that makes him such an attractive and popular protagonist.

Finally, in The Wings of the Sphinx, Montalbano is feeling his age.  He is 56, beginning to ponder his own mortality, experiencing some minor physical reminders of the need to slow down, questioning his long-term relationship and failure to seal the commitment with Livia, and now must solve the murder of a young girl whose only identifying mark is a butterfly tattooed on her left shoulder.  When he learns the mark is not a butterfly but a specific type of moth, he is able to trace the young lady to a mysterious and secretive organization connected with the Catholic Church.  Here is where Montalbano shines.  He is not afraid to take on those in power, even when told to back down by his superiors.  This one isn't as light as some of the others, but it's a well-plotted mystery with many complex characters holding it together.

The Inspector Montalbano Mysteries
by Andrea Camilleri
translated by Stephen Sartarelli
narrated in audio by Grover Gardner
source: public library


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