A Saracen Olive Tree

In Sicily ancient olive trees are often called Saracen olive trees. You can see one by clicking HERE. The term Saracen, refers to the time when Sicily was under Islamic rule from 965 until 1061. (See History of Islam in southern Italy).

Review: The Scent of the Night, by Andrea Camilleri

Esta entrada es bilingüe, desplazarse hacia abajo para ver la versión en castellano

Picador, 2007. Translated by Stephen Sartarelli. Original title: L’odore della notte, 2001. First published in English as The Smell of the Night by Viking Penguin, 2005. Pages: 240. ISBN: 9780330442183. 

The Scent of the Night aka The Smell of the Night is the sixth novel in the mystery series featuring Inspector Montalbano by Andrea Camilleri and, if my count is correct, the eighth I’ve read so far.

The ragioniere Emanuele Gargano, a sort of financial wizard, had landed in Vigàta about two years ago. Within days more than a hundred customers had entrusted to him their life savings. One day he disappeared. His customers and employees had called the general management office of ‘King Midas Associates’, the name of his investment firm in Bologna, but nobody answered. Two schools of thought emerged after a week of fruitless searching. The first considered that he had moved to an island in the Southern Seas to live happily ever after; the second found more likely that he was now serving as fertilizer six feet underground or as fish feed in the local waters, after accepting, carelessly, a mafioso’s money. Montalbano belonged to the first school of thought, but he had no desire to get involved in this case, claiming that he didn’t understand a damn thing about money matters. However, Montalbano has to get involved, reluctantly, when Gargano’s secretary, Mariastella Consentino, is hold at gunpoint by an angry old man, a respected land surveyor named Salvatore Garzullo, who wants back his money or, otherwise, threatens to kill the lady.

I am slowly alternating some of the most recent books in the Montalbano series with the previous ones which I have still unread. In this occasion it was the turn of The Smell of the Night, a book that the author in an endnote describes as a sort of “divertimento“. It is no wonder, therefore, that several reviewers consider it a minor work. But I really loved and enjoyed it like one of his best books, a little gem in my humble opinion. A must read for the faithful followers of this series. Best if read in chronological order. Do not miss it.

My rating: 4/5

The Smell of the Night has been reviewed by Karen at Euro Crime, Maxine at Euro Crime, NacyO at the crime segments, Cathy at Kittling: Books, among others.   

El olor de la noche de Andrea Camilleri

El olor de la noche es la sexta novela de la serie de misterio protagonizada por el comisario Montalbano de Andrea Camilleri y, si mi cuenta es correcta, el octavo que he leído hasta ahora.

El ragioniere Emanuele Gargano, una especie de mago de las finanzas, había aterrizado en Vigàta hace unos dos años. En pocos días más de un centenar de clientes le habían confiado a él todos sus ahorros. Un día desapareció. Sus clientes y empleados habían llamado a la oficina de administración general de ‘Rey Midas Asociados “, el nombre de su empresa de inversión en Bolonia, pero nadie respondió. Dos escuelas de pensamiento surgieron después de una semana de búsqueda infructuosa. La primera consideraba que se había mudado a una isla en los Mares del Sur a vivir feliz para siempre; la segunda encontraba más probable que ahora estuviera sirviendo como fertilizante a seis pies bajo tierra o como alimento para peces en las aguas locales, después de aceptar, por descuido, el dinero de un mafioso. Montalbano pertenecía a la primera escuela de pensamiento, pero no tenía ningún deseo de involucrarse en este caso, alegando que él no entendía absolutamente nada de asuntos de dinero. Sin embargo, Montalbano tiene que involucrarse, a regañadientes, cuando la  secretaria de Gargano, Mariastella Cosentino, es retenida a punta de pistola por un enojado hombre de edad, un respetado topógrafo llamado Salvatore Garzullo, que quiere recuperar su dinero o, de lo contrario, amenaza con matar a la señora.

Poco a poco voy alternando algunos de los libros más recientes en la serie de Montalbano con las anteriores que tengo aún sin leer. En esta ocasión le ha tocado el turno a El olor de la noche, un libro que el autor en una nota al final describe como una especie de “divertimento“. No es de extrañar, por tanto, que varios críticos lo consideren una obra menor. Pero realmente me ha encantado y lo he disfrutado como uno de sus mejores libros, una pequeña joya en mi humilde opinión. Una lectura obligatoria para los fieles seguidores de esta serie. Mejor si se leen en orden cronológico. No te lo pierdas.

Mi calificación: 4/5.

Ver reseña de El olor de la noche en Leer por leer

2012 Crime Fiction Alphabet, L is for Latour, Jose Latour

This week the Crime Fiction Alphabet has arrived to letter “l”. My L is for Latour, José Latour. The information below has been taken from several sources like Wikipedia.

José Latour (Havana, Cuba, 1940) is a Cuban crime fiction writer. His first three novels (Preludio a la Noche, Medianoche Enemiga and Fauna Nocturna), set in pre-revolutionary Havana, were published in 1982, 1986 and 1989. The fourth (Choque de Leyendas), was released in 1998. In 1994 Latour submitted his new book The Fool to his Cuban publisher. Based on a real-life case of corruption in the ministries of the Interior and the Armed Forces, the book was considered counterrevolutionary and its author labelled an “enemy of the people”.

Certain that he would never be published in Cuba again as long as all publishing houses were state-owned, Latour took a shot at writing in English. His first novel in that language, Outcast (1999), was published in the U.S., Japan, five Western European countries and Brazil. Outcast was published in Spain titled Mundos sucios and won the Spanish Hammett Award in 2003 during the Gijón Crime Fiction Festival. It got flattering reviews and was nominated for an Edgar. Since then, he has penned Havana Best Friends aka Hidden in Havana (2002), Havana World Series (2003), Comrades in Miami (2005) and Crime of Fashion (2009).

Seeking creative fiction and fearing dictatorial repression, the author and his family moved to Spain in August 2002 and to Canada in September 2004.

Elliot Steill, the product of a brief union between his Cuban mother and an American-born labourer, is an unhappy teacher in Havana when a man claiming to be a friend of Steill’s deceased father arrives in Cuba and offers him the chance to escape. The plan goes dangerously amiss, and Steill is soon on the hunt through Miami’s mean streets for the man who betrayed him. To find him, Steill first has to figure out why he was singled out, an exercise that has him mentally searching his past in Cuba for clues.
The fast-paced story, which reveals as much about real life in Cuba as it does about the émigré community in Miami, sees Steill transformed into a man of hair-trigger reactions as he’s forced into playing an increasingly violent game of cat and mouse. In just one of the novel’s many twists, the teacher becomes the fast learner he has to be to navigate this new world of greed, corruption, and crime — but also of compassion so unexpected it is wrenching. (McClelland & Stewart). Outcast has been reviewed by Yvonne Klein at Reviewing the evidence.

Elena Miranda and her brother, Pablo, have lived in the same spacious Havana apartment since they were children, not knowing that a $10-million treasure in diamonds is hidden behind a tile in their bathroom. Now the son of the man who buried them there wants them, and he knows the ideal person for the job: his ruthless former comrade-in-arms during the Vietnam War.
Equipped with a Spanish-speaking “wife” and Canadian passports, the vet flies to Cuba to sweet-talk his way into Elena and Pablo’s lives and get his hands on the diamonds. But Cuba has a way of confusing even the best-laid plans, and soon the treasure hunters find themselves being hunted.
A complex, hard-boiled novel of betrayal, deceit, and cunning, Havana Best Friends takes place in a Cuba that tourists rarely see. Stunning plot twists rocket the story forward, but not once does the action overpower the story’s heart — the emotional lives of the people whose worlds are changed forever by these so-called best friends. (McClelland & Stewart). Havana Best Friends has been reviewed by Sarah Dudley at Reviewing the evidence and by Yvonne Klein at Reviewing the evidence.

It is the fall of 1958 in Havana, Cuba. Mickey Mantle’s New York Yankees are playing the Milwaukee Braves, and from the greasy-spoon cafeterias to the luxurious casinos, bets are coming in fast and furious. Everyone is riveted to the series—and no one more so than criminal mastermind Mariano “Ox” Contreras. He has been handpicked by the Joe Bonanno crime family to pull off one of the biggest, most daring heists in Cuba’s history—the one that will finally bring rival mob boss Meyer Lansky’s hotel and gambling empire to its knees.
With the guidance of Lebanese hustler-turned-tycoon Elias Naguib, Contreras organizes a dream team of Cuba’s most intrepid and ingenious ex-cons. His right-hand man is Fermín Rodríguez, a short, bald Spanish-Cuban whose career as a pimp ended when he stabbed a boxer in the liver. The law-school dropout Arturo “Abo” Heller is the decoy, posing as the high-rolling son of a tobacco farmer. Former gigolo turned Casino de Capri dealer Wilberto “Willy Pi” Pires is the inside man. Valentin “Meringue” Rancaño, a backwater boy who came to the Cuban capital with twenty-five stolen pesos in his pocket before cutting his teeth as a dice shark, is the scout. And Melchor “Wheel” Loredo, the island’s most intrepid car thief, is the getaway driver.
As the series goes down to the wire, Contreras and his ragtag team await the final out, when the overflowing coffers of Lansky’s casino are ripe for the picking. If all goes off without a hitch, their futures will finally be made. But in a country where unrest and uncertainty are the order of the day, is it possible that all will not go according to plan? (Grove Press). Havana World Series has been reviewed by Mary Whipple at Seeking the World Through Books.

In the rest of the world, the Cold War is over, but the one between the United States and Cuba is kept stoked by both governments — and by the spies they keep in business.
Colonel Victoria Valiente, one of the most respected officers in the General Directorate of Intelligence, is the Havana-based spymaster of greater Miami. An apparently faithful servant of the revolution, she is middle-aged, frumpy, with an IQ off the charts and a libido to match. But her husband has convinced her that Castro’s regime is corrupt and moribund, and that they must defect. Buoyed by $2.7 million that he steals electronically and salts away in an online bank, the couple sails to Key West. They have no idea that the FBI is on to them. The G-men have coerced Elliot Steill, a Cuban exile living in Miami (and the hero of Latour’s previous novel, Outcast), into betraying his former compadres.
This crafted, erotically charged novel culminates in an electrifying showdown, offering an inside view into the regime’s darkest corners while shedding light on contemporary Cuba. (McClelland & Stewart). Comrades in Miami has been reviewed by Yvonne Klein at Reviewing the evidence.

Latour’s first novel since his immigration to Canada is a tale of heart-stopping action, deceit, and desperation that sees Elliot Steil race from Miami to Toronto to rescue a fashion model from her kidnappers
In Latour’s latest novel Jenny Scheindlin, an ex-New York fashion model and daughter of Steil’s former boss, has been kidnapped. The abductors choose Steil as intermediary in the negotiations to free her. Two Israeli agents formulate a devious plan to get the ransom to Toronto and bring Jenny home. But Steil is standing on quaking terrain, where nothing is as it seems, and no one can be trusted. Are the kidnappers members of the Islamic Army of Canada as they claim, or is Jenny the victim of an elaborate conspiracy? Is Steil himself a hero on a mission or a patsy who’s walked right into a trap? As he tries to stay calm and one step ahead of a frightening and unknown nemesis, a noose is tightening around Steil’s neck.
Crime of Fashion’s serpentine story and its mix of mystery, international espionage, and deceit make it a nail-biter. Latour is a master of suspense and surprises, and he’s writing at the top of his considerable powers in Crime of Fashion. (McClelland & Stewart). Crime of Fashion has been reviewed by Yvonne Klein at Reviewing the evidence.


The Crime Fiction Alphabet 2012 is a Community Meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. By Friday of each week participants try to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week. Click HERE to visit the contribution of other fellow bloggers.

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