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).

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].

Andrea Camilleri: Inspector (Commissario) Montalbano Series (Last Updated Sunday, 21 July 2019 21:03)

This entry was intended as a private note. However, I have thought it can be of some interest to readers of this blog. Please bear in mind it is a work in progress, you may find my reviews of the books I’ve read so far clicking on the books’ titles. Your comments are welcome and I would appreciate if you let me know of any error and/or omission you may find on this page, thank you beforehand.

094222001-dbcfd5b3-df57-4f71-a739-c2ed9f3cbdecAndrea Camilleri was born in Porto Empedocle in 1925. He made his debut as a theatre director, in Rome, in 1953. He subsequently worked as a producer and scriptwriter and as a director for RAI radio and television. He also taught Actor Directing at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, and theatre directing at the Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica Silvio d’Amico for fifteen years. He published his first novel in 1978 and has never stopped writing since. He has published more than a hundred volumes: historical novels, political essays, and crime novels, including the celebrated Commissario Montalbano series. His books have sold almost 25 million copies in Italy and 15 million copies abroad, and have been translated into 37 languages. The Commissario Montalbano tv series has been broadcasted in more than 60 countries. He writes for many Italian and foreign newspapers and has won numerous literary awards in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. (Source: Alferj e Prestia agenzia letteraria). On 17 June 2019, Camilleri suffered a heart attack. He was admitted to hospital in critical condition, and died on 17 July 2019. He’ll be sorely missed.

Read more at:

The man behind Inspector Montalbano

Inspector Montalbano mysteries

Sellerio Editore

Inspector (Commissario) Salvo Montalbano is a Sicilian fictional character that was created by Italian writer Andrea Camilleri. The novels are written in a mixture of Italian and Sicilian dialects. As you would expect much of the action takes place on the island of Sicily. They are detective novels intertwined with humour, and social comment.

Salvo Montalbano is a typical Sicilian chalk full of all of the idiosyncrasies and above all else good detective work. He has his own ways of doing things and is seen be his superiors as a loose cannon. He is constantly dealing in a world of shady characters, with different connections, who operate in a your scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours sort of dynamic. Yet through it all the Inspector manages to remain true and uncompromising at least to a point where he can still live with himself. The character involves a great deal of humour but the author also adds hard criticism of both Italian and Sicilian political and social situation. Unlike most detective novels where these contexts are simply skimmed over or ignored altogether, these elements form a backbone to the tales of the inspector.

Montalbano is the head of the Vigata police precinct. As such he must balance the desires of his superiors, the reality of the crime rate in the area and, of course his personal life. To make matters even murkier there are two factions within the force that are trying to control the way things are done. The ideology coming from Milan is a standardized regulated way of doing police work. This northern view demands and increase in transparency and a desire to do things by the book. On the opposite side of the spectrum in the southern outlook to law enforcement that involves intricate interpersonal connections that effect how justice is carried out. What makes Inspector Montalbano so effective is his ability to balance between these two opposite factions; it is not always an easy task but he has a knack of keeping everyone happy. Any mention of Italy is usually followed by an image of great food. Inspector Montalbano often eats well-described meals during his adventures, bringing a delightful gastronomic aspect to the series as a whole.

The original Italian series of novels began in 1994. The novels were not translated into English until 2002, after 6 novels had already been complete. Stephen Santarelli, whom critics say managed to maintain a distinct Italian feel despite the fact that the stories were being told in English, does the translation.

Since 1999 there has been television movies of the Inspector Montalbano adventures being produced in Italy. To date there are 26 separate titles. There were two episodes produced annually for the first 6 years of the run, this number has been increased for the last three seasons to 4. Usually produced at a rate of two annually. The series is very popular and shows no signs of ending any time soon.

Inspector Montalbano is an intelligent competent detective. He manages to wade through the reality of Sicilian life while maintaining his honesty and his integrity. The novels are filled with wonderful character and enough comedic episodes to entertain even the most discerning reader. This is not gratuitous comedy, but rather real, tangible events that are believable and would be comical if witnessed first hand. Beside the characters, the comedic elements and even the fabulous backdrop that makes up the novels, the often referred to gastronomic reality of the Italian island is present as well. We can almost smell the wonderful dishes that are being prepared and consumed, all whilst immersed into thought provoking mysteries that are intriguing up to the very end. (Source: Book series in order)

To the best of my knowledge, the complete book series comprises so far the following titles in publication order:

  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. La rete di protezione, Palermo, Sellerio, 2017;
  26. Il metodo Catalanotti, Palermo, Sellerio, 2018;
  27. Il cuoco dell’Alcyon, Palermo, Sellerio, 2019; and
  28. Riccardino (inedito).

In bold some of my favourite titles, but need to re-think some titles I read some time ago, like August Heat for instance.

Besides Inspector Montalbano also appears in the following collections of short stories and novellas: Montalbano’s First Case and Other Stories, 2016 [A selection of 21 short stories, of his 59 published stories featuring Chief Insp. Salvo Montalbano. This selection includes the following titles: ‘Montalbano’s first case’, ‘Fifty pairs of hobnailed boots’, ‘Neck and neck’; ‘Fellow traveler’; ‘Dress rehearsal’; ‘Amore’; ‘The artist’s touch’; ‘Montalbano’s rice fritters’; ‘As Alice did’; ‘The pact’; ‘Mortally wounded’; ‘Catarella solves a case’; ‘Being here’; ‘Seven Mondays’; ‘Judicial review’; ‘Pessoa maintains’; ‘The cat and the goldfinch’; ‘Montalbano says no’; ‘A kidnapping’; ‘Montalbano afraid’ and ‘Better than darkness’], and Death at Sea, Mantle , September 2018 [a collection of eight short stories featuring the young Inspector Montalbano]

In Italian the following collections are available in book form: Un mese con Montalbano, 1998 ; Gli arancini di Montalbano  1999 ; La paura di Montalbano, 2002; La prima indagine di Montalbano, 2004; Morte in mare aperto e altre indagini del giovane Montalbano, 2014.


My Book Notes: The Overnight Kidnapper, 2014 (An Inspector Montalbano Mystery Book 23) by Andrea Camilleri (trans: Stephen Sartarelli)

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

Mantle, 2019. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 540 KB. Print Length: 271 pages. ASIN: B07GWPTFCS. ISBN: 978-1-5098-4084-7. Originally published in Italian in 2015 as La giostra degli scambi by Sellerio Editore. Translated by Stephen Sartarelli in 2019.

original_400_600Opening Paragraph: At half past five that morning – give or take a few minutes – a fly that had long been stuck to the windowpane as though dead suddenly opened its wings, rubbed then together to clean them, then took flight and, a moment later, changed direction and landed on the bedside table. (Italian translation by Stephen Sartarelli)

Synopsis: After a hectic morning involving two rather irritating cases of mistaken identity, Inspector Montalbano finally arrives in his office ready find out what’s troubling Vigàta this week. What he discovers is unnerving. A woman on her way home from work has been held up at gunpoint, chloroformed and kidnapped, but then released just hours later – unharmed and with all her possessions – into the open countryside. Later that day, Montalbano hears from Enzo, the owner of his favourite restaurant, that his niece has recently been the victim of the exact same crime. Before long, a third instance of this baffling overnight kidnapping has been reported. As far as Montalbano can tell, there is no link between the attacker and the victims. So what exactly is this mystery assailant gaining from these fleeting kidnappings? And what can he do to stop them? Montalbano must use all his logic and intuition if he is to answer these pressing questions before the kidnapper finds his next victim . . .

My take: The day had not started off well. Montalbano mistook the most dangerous man, the one with the knife, for the weaker one. The carabinieri mistook Montalbano for a troublemaker. Adelina mistook an honest man for a thief. And, since troubles always come in fours, Montalbano was sure that early that same morning he killed the innocent fly, mistaking it for the guilty one. Once at the police station, Fazio has an interesting story to tell him. Late last night a man showed up to report that her daughter Manuela was kidnapped five days ago while returning back home. She was chloroformed and released within a few hours without further damages, and with all her belongings intact. The incident could have remained unnoticed had it not been for Enzo, the owner of Montalbano’s favourite trattoria, who that same day told Montalbano his niece Michela was the victim of a similar kidnapping. The two episodes have only one thing in common, both young ladies work at a bank. The following morning a fire destroys a large shop that sells televisions, mobile phones and other electronic devices and the owner, a certain Marcello Di Carlo, is nowhere to be found. The fire seems to have started deliberately and the Mafia’s hand can’t be ruled out, but Montalbano is not fooled by appearances.

I’ve very much liked to see Camilleri once more in top form in this new instalment. The story has it all, an intriguing plot, an exciting mystery and Camilleri’s usual characters. It was quite fun to see how Montalbano manages to come out successfully from the compromising situations in which he finds himself involved in. All peppered with a very peculiar sense of humour, as can be see in the following passage:

‘It was clear he was destined for the sort of brilliant career common to so many of today’s executives: a rapid ascent (perhaps from selling his own mother to the highest bidder), arrival at the top, immediate crash of the stock value of the company, bank, or whatever it was, disappearance of said executive, and reappearance, one year later, of same executive in a position of even greater importance.’

A thoroughly enjoyable reading. Highly recommended.

My rating: A (I loved it)

About the author: Andrea Camilleri born 6 September 1925) was a playwright, scriptwriter, filmmaker and Italian novelist.  Originally from Porto Empedocle, Sicily, Camilleri began studies at the Faculty of Literature in 1944, without concluding them, meanwhile publishing poems and short stories. From 1948 to 1950 Camilleri 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. With RAI, Camilleri worked on several TV productions, such as Inspector 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 Sicilian 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 remarkable. Both writers make great play 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 writes a Montalbano novel every so often just so that the character will 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. On 17 June 2019, Camilleri suffered a heart attack. He was admitted to hospital in critical condition, and died on 17 July 2019. He’ll be sorely missed. (Source: Wikipedia)

To the best of my knowledge, the complete book series comprises so far the following titles in publication order: The Shape of Water, 2002 [La forma dell’acqua, Palermo, Sellerio, 1994]; The Terra-Cotta Dog, 2002 [Il cane di terracotta, Palermo, Sellerio, 1996]; The Snack Thief, 2003 [Il ladro di merendine, Palermo, Sellerio, 1996]; The Voice of the Violin, 2003 [La voce del violino, Palermo, Sellerio, 1997]; The Excursion To Tindari, 2005 [La gita a Tindari, Palermo, Sellerio, 2000]; The Smell of the Night aka The Scent of the Night, 2005 [L’odore della notte, Palermo, Sellerio, 2001]; Rounding the Mark, 2006 [Il giro di boa, Palermo, Sellerio, 2003]; The Patience of the Spider, 2007 [La pazienza del ragno, Palermo, Sellerio, 2004]; The Paper Moon, 2008 [La luna di carta, Palermo, Sellerio, 2005]; August Heat, 2009 [La vampa d’agosto, Palermo, Sellerio, 2006]; The Wings of the Sphinx, 2009 [Le ali della sfinge, Palermo, Sellerio, 2006]; The Track of Sand, 2010 [La pista di sabbia, Palermo, Sellerio, 2007]; The Potter’s Field, 2011 [Il campo del vasaio, Palermo, Sellerio, 2008]; The Age of Doubt, 2012 [L’età del dubbio, Palermo, Sellerio, 2008]; The Dance of the Seagull, 2013 [La danza del gabbiano, Palermo, Sellerio, 2009]; The Treasure Hunt, 2013 [La caccia al tesoro, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010]; Angelica’s Smile, 2014 [Il sorriso di Angelica, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010]; Game of Mirrors, 2015 [Il gioco degli specchi, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010]; A Beam of Light aka Blade of Light, 2015 [Una lama di luce, Palermo, Sellerio, 2012]; A Voice in the Night, 2016 [Una voce di notte, Palermo, Sellerio, 2012]; A Nest of Vipers, 2017 [Un covo di vipere, Palermo, Sellerio, 2013]; The Pyramid of Mud, 2018 [La piramide di fango, Palermo, Sellerio, 2014]; The Overnight Kidnapper, 2019 [La giostra degli scambi, Palermo, Sellerio, 2015]; The Other End of the Line (2019) [L’altro capo del filo, Palermo, Sellerio, 2016]; La rete di protezione, Palermo, Sellerio, 2017;Il metodo Catalanotti, Palermo, Sellerio, 2018; Il cuoco dell’Alcyon, Palermo, Sellerio, 2019; and Riccardino (inedito). The Other End of the Line (Inspector Montalbano mysteries #24), originally published in Italian in 2016 as L’altro capo del filo, will go on sale on 5 September 2019.

About the Translator: Stephen Sartarelli was born in Youngstown, Ohio, on July 5, 1954. He holds a BA in literature and languages from Antioch College and an MA in comparative literature from New York University. Sartarelli is the author of three books of poetry: The Open Vault (Spuyten Duyvil, 2001), The Runaway Woods (Spuyten Duyvil, 2000), and Grievances and Other Poems(Gnosis Press, 1989). He has translated over forty books of fiction and poetry from the Italian and French, including The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini(University of Chicago Press, 2014), which received the 2016 Raiziss/de Palchi Book Prize. About Sartarelli’s winning translation, judges Antonello Borra and Alessandro Carrera write: “Thanks to Stephen Sartarelli’s magnificent volume, flawless translation and sound scholarly apparatus, the English-speaking readership will now be aware that Pier Paolo Pasolini was as great as a poet, and possibly even greater, as he was a filmmaker. Not only does Sartarelli intelligently select and elegantly translate from Pasolini’s poetic opus, he also gives us a clear, informed introduction, a useful, concise set of notes, and an essential bibliography. This book is a must have for both scholars and lovers of poetry alike.” Sartarelli’s other honors include the International Dagger Award from the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain, the John Florio Prize from the British Society of Authors, and the Raiziss/de Palchi Book Prize for Songbook: Selected Poems of Umberto Sabain 2001. He has also received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities for the ongoing translation of Horcynus Orca by Stefano D’Arrigo, originally published in 1975. Sartarelli currently lives in the Périgord region of South West France with his wife, the painter Sophie Hawkes. (Source: https://www.poets.org)

Pan Macmillan publicity page

Penguin Random House publicity page

Sellerio publicity page

Inspector Montalbano mysteries

audible

El carrusel de las confusiones de Andrea Camilleri

Primer párrafo: A las cinco y media de aquella mañana, minuto arriba, minuto abajo, una mosca que parecía muerta desde hacía tiempo en el cristal de la ventana abrió las alas de repente, se las limpió con esmero, restregándoselas bien, echó a volar y al rato cambió de dirección y fue a posarse en la repisa de la mesita de noche. (Traducción del italiano de Carlos Mayor)

Sinopsis: En Vigàta las escenas nocturnas adquieren una belleza leopardiana, pero no absorben el murmullo de las alas invisibles en la tiniebla. En una calle solitaria, una mujer de unos treinta años es raptada, narcotizada con cloroformo y abandonada sin sufrir violencia ni robo, lo mismo que le ocurrió la víspera a la sobrina de Enzo, el propietario de la trattoria favorita de Salvo Montalbano. Ambas tienen en común la edad y que trabajan en sucursales bancarias. Unos días más tarde, otra joven es secuestrada con idéntico modus operandi, pero liberada en este caso con una treintena de cortes superficiales por todo el cuerpo menos la cara. Y coincidiendo con estos sucesos tan extraños, un incendio a todas luces provocado arrasa en parte una tienda cuyo dueño y su novia han desaparecido sin dejar rastro. La situación huele a mafia, pero el paso del tiempo no ha hecho perder a Montalbano un ápice de su fino olfato para descifrar los pequeños detalles y captar las motivaciones ocultas. Cuando todo apunta a una explicación más que obvia, el ejercicio de una lógica impecable lleva al comisario hacia una realidad mucho más compleja, un entramado de perversiones, traiciones y venganzas. En ese laberinto pantanoso de servidumbres y desamores, de lóbrego malestar, se esconde, entre un dédalo de confusiones, una «cámara de la muerte»: la última, la más secreta, el lugar donde lo espera agazapada la verdad.

Mi opinión: El día no había empezado bien. Montalbano confundió al hombre más peligroso, el del cuchillo, con el más débil. Los carabineros confundieron a Montalbano con un alborotador. Adelina confundió a un hombre honesto con un ladrón. Y, dado que los problemas siempre vienen de cuatro en cuatro, Montalbano estaba seguro de que esa misma mañana mató a la mosca inocente, confundiéndola con la culpable. Una vez en la comisaria, Fazio tiene una historia interesante que contarle. A última hora de la noche, un hombre apareció para informar que su hija Manuela fue secuestrada hace cinco días cuando regresaba a casa. Fue dormida con cloroformo y liberada en pocas horas sin más daños y con todas sus pertenencias intactas. El incidente podría haber pasado inadvertido si no hubiera sido por Enzo, el propietario de la trattoria favorita de Montalbano, quien ese mismo día le contó a Montalbano que su sobrina Michela fue víctima de un secuestro similar. Los dos episodios tienen una sola cosa en común, ambas jóvenes trabajan en un banco. A la mañana siguiente, un incendio destruye una gran tienda que vende televisores, teléfonos móviles y otros dispositivos electrónicos, y el propietario, un tal Marcello Di Carlo, no aparece por ninguna parte. El fuego parece haber comenzado deliberadamente y no se puede descartar la mano de la mafia, pero Montalbano no se deja engañar por las apariencias.

Me ha gustado mucho ver a Camilleri una vez más en plena forma en esta nueva entrega. La historia lo tiene todo, una trama intrigante, un misterio apasionante y los personajes habituales de Camilleri. Fue bastante divertido ver cómo Montalbano logra salir con éxito de las situaciones comprometedoras en las que se encuentra involucrado. Todo salpicado con un sentido del humor muy peculiar, como se puede ver en el siguiente pasaje:

“Estaba claro que estaba destinado a la clase de brillante carrera habitual en muchos de los ejecutivos hoy en día: rápido ascenso (tal vez por vender a su propia madre al mejor postor), llegada a la cima, desplome inmediato del valor de las acciones de la empresa, banco o lo que sea, desaparición del citado ejecutivo y reaparición, un año mas tarde del mismo ejecutivo en un puesto de mucha mayor importancia.”

Una lectura muy agradable. Muy recomendable.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el autor: Andrea Camilleri nació en 1925 en Porto Empedocle, provincia de Agrigento, Sicilia, y últimamente vivía en Roma, donde impartió clases en la Academia de Arte Dramático. Durante cuarenta años fue guionista y director de teatro y televisión. En 1994 crea el personaje de Salvo Montalbano, el entrañable comisario siciliano protagonista de una serie que en la actualidad consta de veintiséis novelas. Todos sus libros ocupan habitualmente el primer puesto en las principales listas de éxitos italianas. Andrea Camilleri es hoy el escritor más popular de Italia y uno de los más leídos de Europa. En 2014 fue galardonado con el IX Premio Pepe Carvalho. El 17 de junio de 2019, Camilleri sufrió un ataque al corazón. Fue ingresado en un hospital en estado crítico y falleció el 17 de julio de 2019. Le echaremos mucho de menos. (Fuente: Ediciones Salamandra)

Ediciones Salamandra página de publicidad

My Tribute to Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri died yesterday 17 July 2019 in Rome, aged 93. Born in Porto Empedocle, Sicily on 6 September 1925. A playwright, scriptwriter, filmmaker and Italian novelist, he was probably best known by the general public as the series creator featuring Commissario Montalbano, a mystery series of which, to the best of my knowledge, up to date 26 27 novels have been published, and some nine collections of short stories. A final book devoted to Montalbano and titled Riccardino, was delivered to the publisher, but without a release date. It represents the Inspector’s concluding story (Inspector Montalbano mysteries #28) and will be the last book to be published in the series, as stated by Camilleri himself.

There can’t be a better tribute to an author than to read his (her) books. Thus, at A Crime is Afoot, I have decided to start reading soon the last of his novels in the series, translated into English by Stephen Sartarelli, The Overnight Kidnapper (Inspector Montalbano mysteries #23) published originally in Italian in 2015 as La giostra degli scambi. Stay tuned.

descargaSynopsis: After a hectic morning involving two rather irritating cases of mistaken identity, Inspector Montalbano finally arrives in his office ready find out what’s troubling Vigàta this week. What he discovers is unnerving. A woman on her way home from work has been held up at gunpoint, chloroformed and kidnapped, but then released just hours later – unharmed and with all her possessions – into the open countryside. Later that day, Montalbano hears from Enzo, the owner of his favourite restaurant, that his niece has recently been the victim of the exact same crime. Before long, a third instance of this baffling overnight kidnapping has been reported. As far as Montalbano can tell, there is no link between the attacker and the victims. So what exactly is this mystery assailant gaining from these fleeting kidnappings? And what can he do to stop them? Montalbano must use all his logic and intuition if he is to answer these pressing questions before the kidnapper finds his next victim . . .

The Other End of the Line (Inspector Montalbano mysteries #24), originally published in Italian in 2016 as L’altro capo del filo, will go on sale on 5 September 2019.

Rest in peace, Andrea Camilleri.