In his debut novel, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is faced with an intriguing case of a politician found dead in half naked state in Vigata’s red light area. The death turns out to be natural but the case does not end there. Soon Montalbano realises that there is a Machiavellian plot for gaining political mileage and the death just presented that opportunity to somebody.
The plot of the book revolves around the death of an important local politician. Just three days after achieving his biggest political coup, Silvio Lupanello is found dead in a compromising position at a place called “Pasture”, Vigata’s red light area just outside the town. The death is natural but Montalbano is curious from the beginning as many things don’t fit together. Why a cautious man like Lupanello would choose such a seedy plot for a romp? Also the location of Lupanello’s car is baffling Montalbano as he realises that the car must have travelled to the spot by an almost unassailable path through a dry riverbed from the opposite direction of the town. The prime suspect turns out to be a tall, beautiful foreigner blonde who is daughter in law of Lupanello’s biggest political rival. To add to the mystery, Lupanello’s right hand man soon joins forces with this rival. From here on the case takes a curious turn as Montalbano tries to ascertain the real “Shape of Water”; a metaphor used for the case as the case seems to be taking the shape that somebody is trying to give it just as water assumes whatever shape that has been given to it.
Though this is a mystery series, the novels are definitely much more than just a whodunit. In fact there is no real crime in the first two books that I have read. But what makes these books tick is a fascinating central character and Camilleri’s love for Sicily that brings alive the fictional town of Vigata. Montalbano is a loner. Middle aged, compassionate, cynic and though an honest man himself, he has to tread craftily in his profession in order to avoid treading on toes of ‘important’ people while seeking truth.
Andrea Camilleri deals with politics, religion, mafia and how their interconnection affects the society. Camilleri touches the subject of corruption and its pervasiveness, but stays away from making grim social commentaries. Overall the book is an easy read and you can feel the Mediterranean atmosphere. The series greatly reminds me of Tarquin Hall’s Vish Puri as there are many similarities in the way both the protagonists deal with people from different social strata. Also like Vish, Montalbano is a gourmand and the book is laced with many mouth watering recipes of La cucina italiana. I read that Montalbano is Camilleri’s homage to detective Pepe Carvalho, created by Spanish author Manuel Vázquez Montalbán which means a new series to watch out for me.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.
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