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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Rounding The Mark. Andrea Camilleri. Stephen Sartarelli (Translator) Picador (2006)

Wonderfully engaging Sicilian crime story that is drenched in atmosphere and with superb plot mechanics. Inspector Salvo Montalbano takes a swim to shake off the depressing feelings that have been plaguing him. He bumps into a dead body and bring it ashore. The body proves to be a murder victim, the identification is very difficult and the only likely possibility was already dead before the likely murder date for the watery body. Montalbano assists at the processing of a  boatload of illegal immigrants and helps return one to his mother. A short while later the immigrant boy is the victim of a traffic accident and the misgivings that Montalbano had at the time return in full force. The quiet investigation he launches leads to some very brutal criminals and some unexpected revelations. The reveals are superbly stages, the plot mechanics cunning constructed and the conclusion satisfying.
Andrea Camilleri has managed the very difficult feat of delivering a wholly satisfying crime story that is also a biting commentary on politics and society in Italy and Sicily. The story carries off both with wit and grace thanks to the glorious Salvo Montalbano, a man who is utterly a professional policeman and a man with a open heart. Montalbano as vivid and forceful as the Sicilian context he works in. The countryside and the atmosphere of Sicily pervade the book, they ground it wholly and give the actions of the cast force and weight.
The action is delivered with a light touch and Montalbano is never dour or grim, he is too busy enjoying his friends and relishing his food for that. This lightness cleverly hides the chilly darkness of the plot that slowly comes into view and as Montalbano's anger develops in response to it the reader is drawn into the human scale of the brutality. This is the strength of the story, the crimes have a ordinary scale, carried out by humans who have no care for others only for greed. The victims are remembered by Montalbano and they are contrasted with the society and systems that failed them. The anger is controlled by Montalbo's professionalism. Andrea Camilleri can see and enjoy the splendor and generosity of Sicily without ever forgetting the dark veins that run close to the surface. The balance he achieves makes this outstanding book a serious pleasure.

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