The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri

We are continuing our little tour of books I read through some sort of odd or serendipitous circumstance.

I stumbled on The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri (Stephen Sartarelliin, translator) in a rather odd way. My wife’s book club was going to read a book with the title “The Shape of Water.” I was told it was not the book that corresponds to the movie so I thought it was the first book in the Commissario Montalbano series. And it was available on Kindle for $2 so I bought it for my wife.

Turns out it was the book by Anne Spollen. I decided to read this Inspector Montalbano mystery anyways.

The Shape of Water Book Cover
The Shape of Water Commissario Montalbano Mystery Penguin Books Kindle 244 Amazon

Andrea Camilleri’s novels starring Inspector Montalbano have become an international sensation and have been translated from Italian into eight languages, ranging from Dutch to Japanese. The Shape of Water is the first book in this sly, witty, and engaging series with its sardonic take on Sicilian life. Early one morning, Silvio Lupanello, a big shot in the village of Vigàta, is found dead in his car with his pants around his knees. The car happens to be parked in a rough part of town frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers, and as the news of his death spreads, the rumors begin. Enter Inspector Salvo Montalbano, Vigàta’s most respected detective. With his characteristic mix of humor, cynicism, compassion, and love of good food, Montalbano goes into battle against the powerful and the corrupt who are determined to block his path to the real killer. This funny and fast-paced Sicilian page-turner will be a delicious discovery for mystery afficionados and fiction lovers alike.

Quick verdict: It was entertaining but not really my style. 1) I am not a big mystery/crime reader and 2) was rather put off by the vulgarity (if that is the right word) of much of the plot. It was well done and evokes the time and place well. But just not my style.

Kirkus is full of praise:

Subtle, sardonic, and molto simpatico: Montalbano is the Latin re-creation of Philip Marlowe, working in a place that manages to be both more and less civilized than Chandler’s Los Angeles.

Publishers Weekly, less so:

Camilleri’s strength lies in his gallery of eccentric characters: Signora Luparello, the victim’s admirably cool widow; Gegè, a pimp and old classmate of Montalbano’s; Giosue Contino, an 82-year-old schoolteacher who shoots at people because he thinks his 80-year-old wife is cheating on him; and Anna Ferrara, Montalbano’s attractive deputy, “who every now and then, for whatever reason, would try to seduce him.” Even the two garbage men have Ph.D.s. The maverick Montalbano doesn’t hesitate to destroy clues or extract money from a crook to help a child, but his wrapping up the case by telling rather than showing, while acceptable to European audiences, may disappoint action-oriented American fans.

I think this is the sort of book you have to be in the mood for. The humor just didn’t resonate with me and none of the characters really struck me.  Perhaps, I should read the second book in the series, The Terra-Cotta Dog, as series often get better as they go.  But on the other hand, perhaps this is just not my kind of novel

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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