My Book Notes: The Robthorne Mystery, 1934 (Dr Priestley #18) by John Rhode

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Red Kestrel Books, 2019. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 923 KB. Print Length: 287 Pages. ASIN: B082BKFW6M. ISBN: 9781839740763. First published in the UK by Collins Crime Club, 1934 and in the US by Dodd, Mead & Co, 1934.

51hYcPROniL._SY346_Book Description: The Robthorne Mystery, first published in 1934, is part of the series of mysteries featuring private detective Dr Priestley. Author John Rhode, a pen name of Cecil Street (1884-1964), was a prolific writer of mostly detective novels, publishing more than 140 books between 1924 and 1961.
When one of the Robthorne twins commits suicide, there is a question over which one it is and whether it was, in fact, suicide or murder. From the dustjacket: Dr Priestley, well-known crime investigator, is called in to solve the mysterious death of Mr Robthorne, who has been found shot in the greenhouse of his country estate. A chain of damning evidence that Dr Priestley pieces so successfully together forms one of the finest examples of crime detection that Mr John Rhode has yet produced.

My Take: In this instalment, Dr Priestley and Superintendent Hanslet have to come to grips with one of the more complex and difficult cases they ever have had. The Robthorne twins, Maurice and Warwick, are lately leading a flawless live in the village of Milton Kirdmore, when, one day, Warwick is found dead in the greenhouse. How has he met his death? All seems to indicate that he committed suicide, but is there any possibility that he had been murdered? Won’t it be possible that the dead man would be Maurice rather Warwick? The story becomes more confused when it is discovered that Scotland Yard was about to detain Warwick, charged with drug trafficking, which doesn’t seem to make any sense. Finally, another murder takes place that doesn’t seem to be connected with nothing of the above.

If I’m not mistaken this has been my first encounter with Cecil John Street writing as John Rhode, even though I’ve read Murder at Monk’s Barn, written as Cecil Waye and The Secret of High Eldersham, written as Miles Burton. I’m sure it won’t be the last. Regretfully, there are few John Rhode’s books available, particularly among those recommended by Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp, see below. But I look forward to reading the ones I have in a not too distant future. Stay tuned. By the way, I did not say I very much enjoyed reading The Robthorne Mystery, and I strongly recommend it.

The Robthorne Mystery has been reviewed, among others, by Steve Barge at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Nick Fuller at The Grandest Game in the World, Martin Edwards at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jacket LLC. Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1934)

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(Source: facsimile Dust Jacket, LLC. Dodd, Mead & Company (USA), 1934)

About The Author: Capt. Cecil John Charles Street, MC, OBE, (1884 – 1964), also known as CJC Street and John Street, began his military career as an artillery officer in the British army. During the course of World War I, he became a propagandist for MI7, in which role he held the rank of temp Major. After the armistice, he alternated between Dublin and London during the Irish War of Independence as an Information Officer for Dublin Castle. Street went on to become a prolific writer of detective novels when, in 1924, he published a thriller under the name of John Rhode and, by the end of the decade, he had already established himself as a prime candidate for founder-membership of the Detection Club. Only after his death did it emerge that Miles Burton was also a pen-name for Cecil John Street. And his flair for remaining a man of mystery was underlined when, as late as 2003, it was revealed by the Golden Age expert and researcher Tony Medawar that in the early Thirties Street had also written four obscure mysteries under the name Cecil Waye featuring ‘London’s most famous private detective’, Christopher Perrin.

Between 1924 and 1961 Street published a total of 144 novels, seventy-seven as John Rhode, sixty-three as Miles Burton and four as Cecil Waye. Under the name of John Rhode he produced a long series of novels featuring the forensic scientist Dr Priestley (72 books) and, as Miles Burton, he penned  another long series featuring the investigator Desmond Merrion (61 books). The Dr Priestley novels were among the first after Sherlock Holmes to feature scientific detection of crime, such as analysing the mud on a suspect’s shoes. Desmond Merrion is an amateur detective who works with Scotland Yard’s Inspector Arnold. Under the name of Cecil Waye, Street produced four novels: Murder at Monk’s Barn (1931), The Figure of Eight (1931), The End of the Chase (1932) and The Prime Minister’s Pencil (1933).

Critic and author Julian Symons places this author as a prominent member of the “Humdrum” school of detective fiction. “Most of them came late to writing fiction, and few had much talent for it. They had some skill in constructing puzzles, nothing more, and ironically they fulfilled much better than S. S. Van Dine his dictum that the detective story properly belonged in the category of riddles or crossword puzzles. Most of the Humdrums were British, and among the best known of them were Major Cecil Street, who used the name of John Rhode, ….” Symons’ opinion has not however prevented the Rhode and Burton books becoming much sought after by collectors, and many of the early ones can command high prices. Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor in their A Catalogue of Crime offer a different perspective to Symons, praising several of the Rhode books in particular, though they only review a small proportion of the more than 140 novels written by Street.

Curt Evans has written the only detailed account of Street’s life and works: “I wrote my new book, Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920–1961 (published by McFarland Press) in part to give a long overdue reappraisal of these purportedly “humdrum” detection writers as accomplished literary artists. Not only did they produce a goodly number of fine fair play puzzles, but their clever tales have more intrinsic interest as social documents and even sometimes as literary novels than they have been credited with having.” (Source: Wikipedia and others)

The Best of John Rhode (Source: Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp): The Davidson Case aka Murder at Bratton Grange, 1929 (Dr Priestley #6); The House on Tollard Ridge, 1929 (Dr Priestley #7); The Claverton Mystery aka The Claverton Affair, 1933 (Dr Priestley #14); The Venner Crime, 1933 (Dr Priestley #16); Poison for One, 1934 (Dr Pristley #17); The Robthorne Mystery, 1934 (Dr Priestley #18); The Corpse in the Car, 1935 (Dr Priestley #19); Shot at Dawn, 1934 (Dr Priestley #22); Death on the Board aka Death Sits on the Board, 1937 (Dr Priestley #26); The Bloody Tower aka The Tower of Evil, 1938 (Dr Priestley #29); They Watched by Night aka Signal For Death, 1941 (Dr Priestley #35); Vegetable Duck aka Too Many Suspects, 1944 (Dr Priestley #40); Death in Harley Street, 1946 (Dr Priestley #43).

The Best of Miles Burton (Source: Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp): The Secret of High Eldersham aka The Mystery of High Eldersham, 1930 (Desmond Merrion, #1); Where Is Barbara Prentice? 1936 (Desmond Merrion #12); The Platinum Cat, 1938 (Desmond Merrion #18); Murder MD aka Who Killed the Doctor? 1943 (Desmond Merrion #28); The Three-Corpse Trick, 1944 (Desmond Merrion #30); The Cat Jumps, 1946 (Desmond Merrion #33); Bones in the Brickfield, 1958 (Desmond Merrion #56).

Unfortunately most of these books are very difficult to find. For a detailed bibliography click on John Rhode page at Golden Age of Detection Wiki.

Further reading: Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920-1961 (McFarland & Company Inc. 2012) by Curtis Evans.

Red Kestrel Books publicity page

John Street, aka John Rhode and Miles Burton, and the end of the Golden Age

John Rhode / Miles Burton A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection by Mike Grost

A Score of Fine Street Fare: The Best of John Rhode and Miles Burton

How To Read Cecil Street aka John Rhode aka Miles Burton

John Rhode – The Story So Far

Money For Old Rhode: The Price Of Collecting John Street

John Rhode at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel 

The Robthorne Mystery, de John Rhode

Descripción del libro: The Robthorne Mystery, publicado por primera vez en 1934, forma parte de la serie de misterios protagonizada por el detective privado Dr. Priestley. El autor John Rhode, uno de los seudónimos de Cecil Street (1884-1964), fue un prolífico escritor de novelas policiacas en su mayoría, y publicó más de 140 libros entre 1924 y 1961. Cuando uno de los gemelos Robthorne se suicida, la pregunta que surge es cuál de los dos es ysi fue, de hecho, un suicidio o un asesinato. De la contraportada: el Dr. Priestley, conocido investigador de crímenes, es llamado para resolver la misteriosa muerte del Sr. Robthorne, que ha sido encontrado muerto de disparos en el invernadero de su finca. Una cadena de pruebas condenatorias que el Dr. Priestley reúne con tanto éxito forma uno de los mejores ejemplos de detección de delitos que John Rhode ha producido hasta ahora.

Mi opinión: En esta entrega, el Dr. Priestley y el superintendente Hanslet deben enfrentarse a uno de los casos más complejos y difíciles que jamás hayan tenido. Los gemelos Robthorne, Maurice y Warwick, llevan últimamente una vida impecable en el pueblo de Milton Kirdmore, cuando, un día, Warwick es encontrado muerto en el invernadero. ¿Cómo se encontró con la muerte? Todo parece indicar que se suicidó, pero ¿hay alguna posibilidad de que hubiera sido asesinado? ¿No sería posible que el muerto fuera Maurice en lugar de Warwick? La historia se vuelve más confusa cuando se descubre que Scotland Yard estaba a punto de detener a Warwick, acusado de tráfico de drogas, lo que no parece tener ningún sentido. Finalmente, se produce otro asesinato que no parece estar relacionado con nada de lo anterior.

Si no me equivoco, este ha sido mi primer encuentro con Cecil John Street escribiendo como John Rhode, aunque he leído Murder at Monk’s Barn, escrito como Cecil Waye y The Secret of High Eldersham, escrito como Miles Burton. Estoy seguro de que no será el último. Lamentablemente, hay pocos libros de John Rhode disponibles, particularmente entre los recomendados por Curtis Evans en The Passing Tramp, ver más arriba. Pero espero leer los que tengo en un futuro no muy lejano. Manténganse al tanto. Por cierto, no dije que disfruté mucho leyendo The Robthorne Mystery, y lo recomiendo encarecidamente.

Acerca del autor: El capitán Cecil John Charles Street, MC, OBE, (1884 – 1964), también conocido como CJC Street y John Street, comenzó su carrera militar como oficial de artillería en el ejército británico. Durante el transcurso de la Primera Guerra Mundial, se convirtió en propagandista del MI7, en cuyo cargo ocupó el rango de comandante eventual. Después del armisticio, alternó entre Dublín y Londres durante la Guerra de Independencia de Irlanda como Oficial de Información del Castillo de Dublín. Street se convirtió en un prolífico escritor de novelas policíacas cuando, en 1924, publicó un thriller con el nombre de John Rhode y, a finales de la década, ya se había consolidado como firme candidato a miembro fundador del Detection Club. Solo después de su muerte se supo que Miles Burton también era un seudónimo de Cecil John Street. Y su talento por permanecer un hombre de misterio se puso de relieve cuando, en el 2003, el experto e investigador de la Edad de Oro Tony Medawar demostró que a principios de los años treinta también había escrito cuatro misterios oscuros bajo el nombre de Cecil Waye con ‘el detective privado más famoso de Londres’, Christopher Perrin.

Entre 1924 y 1961 Street publicó un total de 144 novelas, setenta y siete como John Rhode, sesenta y tres como Miles Burton y cuatro como Cecil Waye. Bajo el nombre de John Rhode creó una larga serie de novelas protagonizadas por el científico forense Dr. Priestley (72 libros) y, como Miles Burton, escribió otra larga serie protagonizada por el investigador Desmond Merrion (61 libros). Las novelas del Dr. Priestley estuvieron entre las primeras después de Sherlock Holmes en incorporar la investigación científica de los delitos, como el análisis del barro en los zapatos de un sospechoso. Desmond Merrion es un detective aficionado que trabaja con el inspector Arnold de Scotland Yard. Bajo el nombre de Cecil Waye, Street produjo cuatro novelas: Murder at Monk’s Barn (1931), The Figure of Eight (1931), The End of the Chase (1932) y The Prime Minister’s Pencil (1933).

El crítico y autor Julian Symons coloca a este autor como un miembro destacado de la escuela de ficción detectivesca “Hundrum”. “La mayoría de ellos llegó tarde a escribir novelas y pocos tenían mucho talento para ello. Tenían algo de habilidad para construir enigmas, nada más, e irónicamente cumplieron mucho mejor que S. S. Van Dine su máxima de que la historia de detectives pertenecía propiamente a la categoría de adivinanzas o crucigramas. La mayoría de los Humdrums eran británicos, y entre los más conocidos se encontraba Major Cecil Street, que usaba el nombre de John Rhode, ….” Sin embargo, la opinión de Symons no ha impedido que los libros de Rhode y Burton sean muy buscados por coleccionistas, y muchos de los primeros pueden alcanzar precios elevados. Jacques Barzun y Wendell Hertig Taylor en su A Catalog of Crime ofrecen una perspectiva diferente a Symons, elogiando varios de los libros de Rhode en particular, aunque solo reseñan una pequeña proporción de las más de 140 novelas escritas por Street.

Curt Evans ha escrito el único relato detallado de la vida y obra de Street: “Escribí mi nuevo libro, Masters of the” Humdrum “Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart y la novela policíaca británica, 1920-1961 (publicado por McFarland Press) en parte para dar un replanteamiento pendiente desde hace mucho tiempo de estos escritores policiacos aparentemente “rutinarios” como artistas literarios consumados. No solo produjeron un buen número de enigmas de juego limpio, sino que sus historias inteligentes tienen mas un interés intrínseco como documentos sociales e incluso a veces como novelas literarias de lo  que se les atribuye “. (Fuente: Wikipedia y otras)

A Private Note on Locked-Room Mystery Novels (II)

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Early this year I posted: A Private Note on Locked-Room Mystery Novels. My aim was to complete reading the fifteen novels listed. So far I’ve read:

  1. The Hollow Man (aka The Three Coffins), 1935 (Dr. Gideon Fell #6) by John Dickson Carr
  2. Rim of the Pit, 1944 (Rogan Kincaid #2) by Hake Talbot
  3. The Mystery of the Yellow Room, 1907 (Joseph Rouletabille #1) by Gaston Leroux
  4. The Crooked Hinge, 1937 (Dr. Gideon Fell #8) by John Dickson Carr
  5. The Judas Window, 1938 (Sir Henry Merrivale #8) by Carter Dickson
  6. The Perfect Crime: The Big Bow Mystery, 1892 by Israel Zangwill
  7. Death from a Top Hat, 1938 (The Great Merlini #1) by Clayton Rawson
  8. The Chinese Orange Mystery, 1934 (Ellery Queen Detective #8) by Ellery Queen
  9. Nine Times Nine, 1940 (Sister Ursula #1) by Anthony Boucher
  10. The Peacock Feather Murders (aka The Ten Teacups), 1937 (Sir Henry Merrivale #6) by Carter Dickson
  11. The King is Dead, 1952 (Ellery Queen Detective #23) by Ellery Queen
  12. Through a Glass, Darkly, 1950 (Dr. Basil Willing #8) by Helen McCloy
  13. He Wouldn’t Kill Patience, 1944 (Sir Henry Merrivale #15) by Carter Dickson
  14. (tie) Too Many Magicians, 1966 (Lord Darcy #2) by Randall Garrett; and Invisible Green, 1977 (Thackeray Phin #2) by John Sladek

And I look forward to reading, before the year’s end, the rest of books on the list. Stay tuned.

(Source: A Locked Room Library by John Pugmaire)

My Book Notes: The Cook of the Halcyon, 2021 (Inspector Montalbano #27) by Andrea Camilleri (trans.: Stephen Sartarelli)

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Mantle, 2021. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 2713 KB. Print Length: 229 pages. ASIN: B08KQHMBTF. ISBN: 9781529053388. Originally published in Italian in 2019 as Il cuoco dell’Alcyon by Sellerio Editore. Translated by Stephen Sartarelli in 2021.

516fph6aDWL._SY346_Synopsis: The Cook of the Halcyon is the penultimate novel in the Inspector Montalbano mystery series from the master of Sicilian crime, Andrea Camilleri.
Moments later the all-white schooner, which looked like a hospital ship, began to pass ever so slowly before him, as if wanting to show itself off in all its beauty. The name on the prow said: Halcyon.
Two deaths – the suicide of a recently fired worker and the murder of an unscrupulous businessman – lead Inspector Montalbano to the Halcyon, a mysterious ship that visits Vigàta’s port each day. With very few crewmen, no passengers, and a stern large enough to land a helicopter, it piques the Inspector’s interest straight away.
In the midst of this, a rare trip to Genoa to visit Livia ends with the Vigàta police department in disarray, and Inspector Montalbano’s position as the head of the commissariat in jeopardy. It will be up to Montalbano to fix the damage done.

My Take: The story revolves around a series of unrelated events, at least in appearance. The first incident took place in a shipyard in which a recently laid off worker committed suicide. The owner turned out to be one Giovanni Trincanato who, having inherited the business from his father, was only interested in women and gambling. Therefore, it is not surprising that between Giovanni and the sudden economic crisis, the factory is on the verge of bankruptcy. The fact that Trincanato does not appear to be affected by the suicide of his former employee infuriates Montalbano to the point that he ended up slapping him. Soon after, a stunning woman came to the police station to file a complaint. She did not come to report a robbery but an outrage. While one man tried to snatch her purse, another had the audacity to touch her ass. Mimì Augello manages to convince her that the case was more appropriate for the American Consulate in Vigàta to handle, if it exists, since that was the nationality of the victim, and there the incident ended. However, the curious thing is that Giovanni Trincanato went to fetch her at the police station. The third episode took place when Montalbano, after an inconsequential car incident, picks up a passenger from a luxury car who turns out to be another stunning woman on her way to Trincanato’s house. Finally, the arrival of a mysterious schooner, the Halcyon, greatly intrigues Montalbano. The ship periodically arrives at port for supplies, but no passenger ever embarks. Also, her arrival seems to be related in some way to Trincanato and the two women. At this point, the story takes an unexpected turn. Montalbano is forced, by formal letter, to take vacations in increments of 10 days until reaching retirement age. Apparently he had accumulated so much time because he had not enjoyed them before. Although soon Montalbano realises that it is a scheme drawn by his superiors to keep him away from the police station. A young man soon takes over his post, his men begin to be transferred to other stations and, worst of all, it has been done without warning.

I believe I’m right saying that Camilleri will surprise his readers with what will be his last novel featuring Inspector Montalbano. It is true that Riccardino will be his last novel published in this series, but it was written some years ago with the express intention by the author to be published only after his death. The Cook of the Halcyon is in addition an odd book, in several senses. The author himself writes in a final note that “this story was conceived about ten years ago, not as a novel but as a script for an Italian and American film co-production. When the plans for collaboration fell through, I used the screenplay, with a few variants, for a new Montalbano book, and I suppose that, for better or for worse, the non-literary origins of the work show through in the telling.” In any case, the origin of the story has not bothered me at all and I have enjoyed reading it very much, even though it can be considered more a classic adventure story rather than a conventional Montalbano mystery. It may not be up to the expectations of the first novels in the series, but in any case it has an intriguing plot, the story is nicely crafted and is highly entertaining, which should not surprise us coming from the master hand of Camilleri.

About the author: Andrea Camilleri (born 6 September 1925 in Porto Empedocle, Sicily) was a playwright, scriptwriter, filmmaker and Italian novelist. Camilleri followed an unlikely path to mystery fiction success. This is a genre full of writers who break into the business in their twenties, thirties, or forties and churn out novels annually until retirement; Camilleri, by contrast, was well into his sixties when he reached mainstream recognition. In his younger years, Camilleri’s passion was for performance art. He taught drama, became a theater director, and produced television shows. When he finally sat down at his writer’s desk in the 1970s, he didn’t meet with much success. His 1978 debut novel Il Corso Delle Cose (The Way Things Go) remains obscure even in Italy and has yet to be translated into English. In 1994 Camilleri published the first in a long series of novels: La forma dell’Acqua (The Shape of Water) where he introduces for the first time the character of Detective Inspector Salvo Montalbano, a policeman in Camilleri’s native Sicily, who loves fine food and has a complicated relationship with the law. He’s not eager to advance his career, and he’s willing to bend the rules if it helps things work out more smoothly. Although Montalbano’s opinions on lawbreaking may be malleable, his positions on ethics and justice are not.Camilleri originally intended to write a book or two starring Montalbano and then move on, but the success of the character kept the creator coming back. The result is a superb series written by an author that knows every trick, trope, and formula but has so much more at his disposal. Camilleri’s books are brilliant not because they shatter any formulas but because, in following those formulas, Camilleri finds the time and space to make his work mean something. His ideas about politics, justice, and morality are seamlessly woven into his stories, and they fit perfectly within the finely tuned mechanisms of Camilleri’s twists-and-turns storytelling. The TV adaptation of Montalbano’s adventures, starring Luca Zingaretti, further increased Camilleri’s popularity to such a point that in 2003 Camilleri’s home town, Porto Empedocle – on which Vigàta is modelled – took the extraordinary step of changing its official name to that of Porto Empedocle Vigàta, no doubt with an eye to capitalising on the tourism possibilities thrown up by the author’s work. In 2012, Camilleri’s The Potter’s Field (translated by Stephen Sartarelli) was announced as the winner of the Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger. On 17 June 2019, Camilleri suffered a heart attack. He was admitted to hospital in critical condition, and died on 17 July 2019. (extracts taken from Murder & Mayhem and Wikipedia).

Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano books in order (excluding short stories).

About the Translator: Stephen Sartarelli (born 5 July 1954 in Youngstown, Ohio) is a contemporary poet and prize-winning translator. He holds a BA in literature and languages from Antioch College and an MA in comparative literature from New York University. He has written three books of poetry and translated over forty works of fiction and poetry, focusing on French and Italian. He currently lives in the Périgord region of South West France with his wife, the painter Sophie Hawkes.

Pan MacMillan publicity page

Penguin Random House publicity page

Sellerio publicity page

Audible 

El cocinero del Alcyon, de Andrea Camilleri

Sinopsis: El cocinero del Alcyon es la penúltima novela de la serie de misterio Comisario Montalbano del maestro del crimen siciliano, Andrea Camilleri.

Momentos después, la goleta totalmente blanca, que parecía un barco hospital, comenzó a pasar muy lentamente ante él, como si quisiera lucirse en toda su belleza. El nombre de la proa decía: Alcyon.

Dos muertes, el suicidio de un trabajador recientemente despedido y el asesinato de un hombre de negocios sin escrúpulos, conducen al inspector Montalbano al Alcyon, un barco misterioso que visita el puerto de Vigàta todos los días. Con muy pocos tripulantes, sin pasajeros y con una popa lo suficientemente grande como para aterrizar un helicóptero, despierta el interés del inspector de inmediato.
En medio de todo esto, un extraño viaje a Génova para visitar a Livia termina con el departamento de policía de Vigàta en desorden y la posición del Comisario Montalbano como jefe de la comisaría en peligro. Dependerá de Montalbano reparar el daño causado.

Mi opinión: La historia gira en torno a una serie de sucesos no relacionados entre si, al menos en apariencia. El primer incidente tuvo lugar en un astillero en el que un trabajador recientemente despedido se suicidó. El propietario resultó ser un tal Giovanni Trincanato quien, habiendo heredado el negocio de su padre, solo estaba interesado en mujeres y apuestas. Por tanto, no es de extrañar que entre Giovanni y la repentina crisis económica, la fábrica esté al borde de la quiebra. El hecho de que Trincanato no parezca estar afectado por el suicidio de su antiguo empleado enfurece a Montalbano hasta el punto de que termina abofeteándolo. Poco después, una mujer deslumbrante llega a la comisaría para presentar una denuncia. No viiene a denunciar un robo sino un atropello. Mientras un hombre intentaba arrebatarle el bolso, otro tuvo la audacia de tocarle el culo. Mimì Augello logra convencerla de que el caso es más apropiado para que lo lleve el Consulado Americano en Vigàta, si es que existe, ya que esa es la nacionalidad de la víctima, y ​​ahí acaba el incidente. Sin embargo, lo curioso es que Giovanni Trincanato fue a buscarla a la comisaría. El tercer episodio tuvo lugar cuando Montalbano, tras un incidente automovilístico intrascendente, recoge a una pasajera de un automóvil de lujo que resulta ser otra mujer deslumbrante que se dirige a la casa de Trincanato. Finalmente, la llegada de una misteriosa goleta, el Alcyon, intriga mucho a Montalbano. El barco llega periódicamente al puerto para abastecerse, pero nunca se embarca ningún pasajero. Además, su llegada parece estar relacionada de alguna manera con Trincanato y las dos mujeres. En este punto, la historia toma un giro inesperado. Montalbano se ve obligado, mediante carta formal, a tomarse vacaciones en incrementos de 10 días hasta llegar a la edad de jubilación. Aparentemente había acumulado tanto tiempo porque no las había disfrutado antes. Aunque pronto Montalbano se da cuenta de que se trata de un plan elaborado por sus superiores para mantenerlo alejado de su comisaría. Un joven pronto se hace cargo de su puesto, sus hombres comienzan a ser trasladados a otras comisarias y, lo peor de todo, se ha hecho sin previo aviso.

Creo que tengo razón al decir que Camilleri sorprenderá a sus lectores con la que será su última novela protagonizada por el inspector Montalbano. Es cierto que Riccardino será su última novela publicada en esta serie, pero fue escrita años atrás con la intención expresa del autor de ser publicada solo después de su muerte. El cocinero del Halcyon es además un libro extraño, en varios sentidos. El propio autor escribe en una nota final que “esta historia se concibió hace diez años, no como una novela, sino como un guión para una coproducción cinematográfica italiana y estadounidense. Cuando los planes de colaboración fracasaron, utilicé el guión, con algunas variantes, para un nuevo libro de Montalbano, y supongo que, para bien o para mal, los orígenes no literarios de la obra se manifiestan en el relato”. En cualquier caso, el origen de la historia no me ha molestado en absoluto y he disfrutado mucho leyéndola, aunque se puede considerar más una historia de aventuras clásica que un misterio convencional de Montalbano. Puede que no esté a la altura de las primeras novelas de la serie, pero en cualquier caso tiene una trama intrigante, la historia está muy bien elaborada y es muy entretenida, lo que no debería sorprendernos viniendo de la mano maestra de Camilleri.

Sobre el autor: Andrea Camilleri (nacido el 6 de septiembre de 1925 en Porto Empedocle, Sicilia) fue un dramaturgo, guionista, cineasta y novelista italiano. Camilleri siguió un insólito camino hacia el éxito en la novela de misterio. Este es un género lleno de escritores que irrumpen en la actividad a los veinte, treinta o cuarenta años y escriben novelas anualmente hasta su jubilación; Camilleri, por el contrario, tenía más de sesenta años cuando alcanzó un amplio reconocimiento. En su juventud, la pasión de Camilleri era el arte escénico. Enseñó teatro, se convirtió en director de teatro y produjo programas de televisión. Cuando finalmente se sentó en su mesa de escritor en la década de 1970, no tuvo mucho éxito. Su primera novela de 1978, Il Corso Delle Cose (Cómo van las cosas) sigue siendo desconocida incluso en Italia y aún no se ha traducido al inglés. En 1994, Camilleri publicó la primera de una larga serie de novelas: La forma dell’Acqua (La forma del agua), donde presenta por primera vez al personaje del Comisario Salvo Montalbano, un policía de la Sicilia natal de Camilleri, amante de la buena comida que tiene una relación complicada con la ley. No está ansioso por avanzar en su carrera y está dispuesto a romper las reglas si eso ayuda a que las cosas funcionen mejor. Aunque las opiniones de Montalbano sobre la violación de la ley pueden ser maleables, sus posiciones sobre la ética y la justicia no lo son. Camilleri originalmente tenía la intención de escribir uno o dos libros protagonizados por Montalbano y luego pasar a otra cosa, pero el éxito del personaje hizo que el creador regresara a él una y otra vez. El resultado es una magnífica serie escrita por un autor que conoce todos los trucos, recursos y recetas del oficiio, pero tiene mucho más a su disposición. Los libros de Camilleri son brillantes no porque rompan ninguna fórmula, sino porque, siguiendo esas fórmulas, Camilleri encuentra el tiempo y el espacio para hacer que su trabajo tenga algun significado. Sus ideas sobre política, justicia y moralidad están entrelazadas a la perfección en sus historias y encajan perfectamente dentro de los bien ajustados mecanismos de los giros y las vueltas de la narración de Camilleri. La adaptación televisiva de las aventuras de Montalbano, protagonizada por Luca Zingaretti, incrementó aún más la popularidad de Camilleri hasta tal punto que en 2003, la ciudad natal de Camilleri, Porto Empedocle, en la que se basa Vigàta, dio el extraordinario paso de cambiar su nombre oficial por el de Porto Empedocle Vigàta, sin duda con miras a capitalizar las posibilidades turísticas que ofrece la obra del autor. En 2012, El campo del alfarero de Camilleri (traducido por Stephen Sartarelli) fue proclamado ganador de la CWA International Daggers. El 17 de junio de 2019, Camilleri sufrió un infarto. Fue ingresado en el hospital en estado crítico y murió el 17 de julio de 2019 (extractos tomados de Murder & Mayhem y Wikipedia).

OT: Cuenca (Spain) (II)

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A World Heritage Site, Cuenca is one of Spain’s most memorable cities, its old centre a stage set of evocative medieval buildings, many painted in bright colours, stacked on a steep promontory at the meeting of two deep river gorges. Narrow meandering streets separate tall houses with wooden balconies that literally jut out over the sheer cliffs. Yet, despite its age and Unesco listing, Cuenca has somewhat ironically established itself as a vortex of abstract modern art. Two of its most iconic buildings – including one of the famed casas colgadas (hanging houses) – have transformed their interiors into modern galleries. It’s a theme continued in many of the town’s hotels, museums and restaurants.

My previous post is here.

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Inspector Salvo Montalbano Book Series (1994–2020) by Andrea Camilleri

Just a reminder of Montalbano book series. I recently heard that The Cook of the Halcyon (#27) is among the best book in the series. I look forward to reading it soon.

9780143136187Synopsis: Giovanni Trincanato has brought ruin to the shipyard he inherited from his father and when a worker he fires hangs himself on the construction site, Inspector Montalbano is called to the scene. In short order, the inspector loses his temper with the crass Giovanni, delivers a slap to his face, and unfortunately, it won’t be the last he sees of Trincanato. Meanwhile, a mysterious schooner called Halcyon shows up in the harbor, seemingly deserted except for just one man. With its presence comes even more mysteries, another death, and the arrival of the FBI. Alongside Sicilian-American Agent Pennisi, Montalbano and his team must attempt a suspenseful infiltration operation in this new, page-turning Inspector Montalbano mystery.

Penguin Random House publicity page

Pan MacMillan publicity page

About the Author: Andrea Camilleri (1925 – 2019) was an Italian writer. Originally from Porto Empedocle, Girgenti, Sicily, Camilleri began university studies in the Faculty of Literature at the University of Palermo, but did not complete his degree; meanwhile he published poems and short stories. From 1948 to 1950 he studied stage and film direction at the Silvio D’Amico Academy of Dramatic Arts (Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica) and began to take on work as a director and screenwriter, directing especially plays by Pirandello and Beckett. His parents knew, and were, reportedly, “distant friends” of, Pirandello, as he tells in his essay on Pirandello, Biography of the Changed Son. His most famous works, the Montalbano series, show many Pirandellian elements: for example, the wild olive tree that helps Montalbano think is on stage in his late work The Giants of the Mountain. With RAI, Camilleri worked on several TV productions, such as Le inchieste del commissario Maigret with Gino Cervi. In 1977 he returned to the Academy of Dramatic Arts, holding the chair of Film Direction and occupying it for 20 years.

In 1978 Camilleri wrote his first novel Il Corso Delle Cose (“The Way Things Go“). This was followed by Un Filo di Fumo (“A Thread of Smoke“) in 1980. Neither of these works enjoyed any significant amount of popularity. In 1992, after a long pause of 12 years, Camilleri once more took up novel writing. A new book, La Stagione della Caccia (“The Hunting Season“) turned out to be a best-seller.

In 1994 Camilleri published the first in a long series of novels: La forma dell’Acqua (The Shape of Water) featured the character of Inspector Montalbano, a fractious detective in the police force of Vigàta, an imaginary Sicilian town. The series is written in Italian but with a substantial sprinkling of Sicilian phrases and grammar. The name Montalbano is a homage to the Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán; the similarities between Montalban’s Pepe Carvalho and Camilleri’s fictional detective are noteworthy. Both writers make use of their protagonists’ gastronomic preferences.

This feature provides an interesting quirk which has become something of a fad among his readership even in mainland Italy. The TV adaptation of Montalbano’s adventures, starring Luca Zingaretti, further increased Camilleri’s popularity to such a point that in 2003 Camilleri’s home town, Porto Empedocle – on which Vigàta is modelled – took the extraordinary step of changing its official name to that of Porto Empedocle Vigàta, no doubt with an eye to capitalising on the tourism possibilities thrown up by the author’s work. On his website, Camilleri refers to the engaging and multi-faceted character of Montalbano as a “serial killer of characters,” meaning that he has developed a life of his own and demands great attention from his author, to the demise of other potential books and different personages. Camilleri added that he wrote a Montalbano novel every so often just so that the character would be appeased and allow him to work on other stories.

In 2012, Camilleri’s The Potter’s Field (translated by Stephen Sartarelli) was announced as the winner of the 2012 Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger. The announcement was made on 5 July 2012 at the awards ceremony held at One Birdcage Walk in London.

In his last years Camilleri lived in Rome where he worked as a TV and theatre director. About 10 million copies of his novels have been sold to date and are becoming increasingly popular in the UK (where BBC Four broadcast the Montalbano TV series from mid-2011), Australia and North America.

In addition to the degree of popularity brought him by the novels, Andrea Camilleri became even more of a media icon thanks to the parodies aired on an RAI radio show, where popular comedian, TV host and impressionist Fiorello presents him as a raspy voiced, caustic character, madly in love with cigarettes and smoking, since in Italy, Camilleri was well known for being a heavy smoker of cigarettes. He considered himself a “non-militant atheist”. On 17 June 2019, Camilleri suffered a heart attack. He was admitted to hospital in a critical condition. He died on 17 July 2019. (Source: Wikipedia)

Inspector Salvo Montalbano Book Series (1994–2020)

(excluding short stories)

  1. The Shape of Water, 2002 [La forma dell’acqua, Palermo, Sellerio, 1994];
  2. The Terra-Cotta Dog, 2002 [Il cane di terracotta, Palermo, Sellerio, 1996];
  3. The Snack Thief, 2003 [Il ladro di merendine, Palermo, Sellerio, 1996];
  4. The Voice of the Violin, 2003 [La voce del violino, Palermo, Sellerio, 1997];
  5. The Excursion To Tindari, 2005 [La gita a Tindari, Palermo, Sellerio, 2000];
  6. The Smell of the Night aka The Scent of the Night, 2005 [L’odore della notte, Palermo, Sellerio, 2001];
  7. Rounding the Mark, 2006 [Il giro di boa, Palermo, Sellerio, 2003];
  8. The Patience of the Spider, 2007 [La pazienza del ragno, Palermo, Sellerio, 2004];
  9. The Paper Moon, 2008 [La luna di carta, Palermo, Sellerio, 2005];
  10. August Heat, 2009 [La vampa d’agosto, Palermo, Sellerio, 2006];
  11. The Wings of the Sphinx, 2009 [Le ali della sfinge, Palermo, Sellerio, 2006];
  12. The Track of Sand, 2010 [La pista di sabbia, Palermo, Sellerio, 2007];
  13. The Potter’s Field, 2011 [Il campo del vasaio, Palermo, Sellerio, 2008];
  14. The Age of Doubt, 2012 [L’età del dubbio, Palermo, Sellerio, 2008];
  15. The Dance of the Seagull, 2013 [La danza del gabbiano, Palermo, Sellerio, 2009];
  16. The Treasure Hunt, 2013 [La caccia al tesoro, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010];
  17. Angelica’s Smile, 2014 [Il sorriso di Angelica, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010];
  18. Game of Mirrors, 2015 [Il gioco degli specchi, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010];
  19. A Beam of Light aka Blade of Light, 2015 [Una lama di luce, Palermo, Sellerio, 2012];
  20. A Voice in the Night, 2016 [Una voce di notte, Palermo, Sellerio, 2012];
  21. A Nest of Vipers, 2017 [Un covo di vipere, Palermo, Sellerio, 2013];
  22. The Pyramid of Mud, 2018 [La piramide di fango, Palermo, Sellerio, 2014];
  23. The Overnight Kidnapper, 2019 [La giostra degli scambi, Palermo, Sellerio, 2015];
  24. The Other End of the Line, 2019 [L’altro capo del filo, Palermo, Sellerio, 2016];
  25. The Safety Net, 2020 [La rete di protezione, Palermo, Sellerio, 2017];
  26. The Sicilian Method, 2020 [Il metodo Catalanotti, Palermo, Sellerio, 2018];
  27. The Cook of the Halcyon, 2021 [Il cuoco dell’Alcyon, Palermo, Sellerio, 2019];
  28. Riccardino, 2021 [Riccardino , Palermo, Sellerio, 2020].