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on December 15, 2003
Salvo Montalbano is an Italian detective who lives in a small town in Sicily. Unlike many American detective novels where the protagonist is tough and hard boiled, Montalbano is refined, and cultured. He is known in the community to be fair minded and kind with a love of fine food and finer women.
When a important official in town is found dead in a seedy area Montalbano investigates with his own style and charm.
The book, the first of four, has been translated from Italian, and the books are bestsellers in Europe. While enjoyable, it was an adjustment from what I'm usually used to reading in regards to mystery novels. Much of the book deals with life in an Italian town and the heiarchy that exists there, as well as the political climate. A glossary in the back provides translations from everything to local police customs to money exchanges. While giving you a definite feel of time and place, it didn't always engage me like I hoped it would. Still, it's an enjoyable and quick read if you're looking for a mystery series that's different in tone and locale.
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on December 9, 2003
The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri, Stephen Sartarelli (Translator)
The way that I read books is to start 3 or 4 at a time, When I become bored with one I just pick up where i've left off with another. If one is particularly interesting I can literally finish it within a few days. My genre of choice are mysteries from NY Times Best Sellers to relative unheard of or long forgotten writers. So, I was quite excited when Penquin books / Viking Press offered to send me copies of four of Mr Camilleri's mysteries which have been translated into English to read and review.
Unfortunately, Andrea Camilleri's Sicilian police inspector Salvo Montalbano The Shape of Water has been almost impossible to read. The books are quite a departure from what most American mystery readers are expecting. There are several murders, no car chases, nor fist fights, nor shoot outs. That isn't necessarily why I can't say I didn't like the books.
I recently read and reviewed Alexander McCall Smith's "Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series, where there are no shoot outs, etc and was thoroughly entertained by the series.
I think what was lacking for me from Mr. Camilleri's books were something to relate to from an investigators process in solving the main and then the subsequent crimes. When I finally finished the book , the crime was solved and I had no idea HOW it was solved.
After The Shape of Water, I know what to expect from other books in the series. I'll give the other books a shot and see if it was just me and this particular work of the author
John Row
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on June 22, 2012
The Shape of Water is a mediocre mystery, if one judges a novel by the reader's compulsion to discover the murderer.The thrust to learn the truth of a detective story is hampered by translation from Italian. It is not a bad translation, but it is a tale told not in its original language. Therefore the author's Sicilian humour and sense of comic doom and shrug of cynical chaos reads oddly in Englgish. What may be sprightly prose in Italian is workmanlike plodding in colorless English. Granted, I am a big fan of idiomatic English and no fan at all of translation. I would end with an Italian proverbial saying that covers the situation perfectly: traditore - tradutore "the translator is a traitor." It means the author's intents in his native language can never be fully transposed into a foreign language. And Andrea Camilleri, whatever his prowess in Italian, does not translate into the deft and compelling English required to hold a mystery reader's attention.
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on March 14, 2004
Andrea Camilleri's "The Shape of Water" is the first in a series of Inspector Montalbano mysteries, only recently translated to English. I wasn't sure what to expect but was pleasantly surprised by interesting characters, a mystery I didn't figure out in advance, and a protaganist with many layers, who is serious, intelligent, self-depracating, and quite funny!
The story begins with the discovery by 2 garbagemen of a local politician, dead in a car, with his pants around his ankles. Detective work in Sicily is quite different than what you would expect in the US. But Inspector Montalbano performs his job largely independent of supervision and is fairly free to follow up in whatever way he pleases.
The pace is relaxed, and the book does not have your typical action-adventure style. Everything is revealed in a very matter of fact style in a storytelling manner, rather than one action scene to the next. Not to worry though, there are plenty of questions to be answered here, and Montalbano gets to them in his own good time. He manages to fit in a love interest, and some fantastic gourmet food as he goes about his days. His gastronomic interests are amusing in themselves.
I don't want to go on about the story itself here, it might spoil the surprises for the readers. Suffice to say this was a very enjoyable read, with plenty of plot twists, that will make you want to read the rest of the series. Highly recommended to mystery lovers.
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on February 11, 2004
The body of a well known politician is found with his pants down, literally. But instead of a coverup, his lawyer suggests calling in the police. Police Inspector Montalbano is suspicious, but the autopsy says the death was natural--a heart attack. Still, Montalbano insists on keeping the case open, investigating what really happened. Because in Sicily, where the Mafia remains strong, the truth can be as malleable as water.
Montalbano's investigations probe political corruption, sexual deviance, and Sicily's underworld, but the evidence seems clear. The only question is, who was the beautiful girl who abandoned the minister when he died.
THE SHAPE OF WATER is the first in a really fine mystery series by author Andrea Camilleri. In WATER, Montalbano is already a fully developed and intriguing character with a strong moral sense and an attractive disregard for the letter of the law. Hints of his passion for the taste and smells of Sicily come out although these are more fully developed in later books in the series.
Camilleri's mystery is fully engaging and Montalbano is a great character. Although I didn't find THE SHAPE OF WATER quite as compelling as some of the later novels in the series, it is a highly enjoyable read.
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on February 2, 2004
In a grotesque death, Sicilian politician and wealthy engineer Silvio Luparello, is found in a remote "pasture", or the equivalent of a lonely stretch of land where prostitutes ply their trade in their clients' cars. Garbagemen find the car, and the body, with its pants around its knees, and we are immediately struck by how much effort is expended to downplay the incident and cover up the cause of death. Into this mess comes well-respected middle-aged Inspector Salvo Montalbano, a life-long resident of the fictional Sicilian coastal town of Vigata.
The novel follows Montalbano's clever and well-manuevered search for the truth; letting the reader meet local politicians, Montalbano's friends and colleagues, the family of the dead man, and a mysterious and roundheeled woman who races cars for a living, and is somehow entangled in Luparello's death. In a sidebar, Montalbano also makes the acquaintance of the garbagemen, and learns of a serious healthcare crisis with the child of one of them.
As he researches the case, Montalbano breaks a lot of rules, but delicately, becomes chagrined over the affections of a young police officer (the daughter of his old friend), makes time to woo his own love, Livia, in Genoa, and flies under the radar of town leaders, religious leaders and his superior officers, all of whom want him to close the case quickly, and admit that Luparello dies of natural causes.
The reader develops an appreciation for Montalbano's subtlety, and his art in acquiring delicious food from friends, restaurants, and his own kitchen...Montalbano loves a good meal. The cynicism and humor are subtle here, poking gentle fun at Sicilian political customs, such as a killing where everyone hopes the death was a Mafia hit, so that they don't have to search for the real cause.
I've read so much that's good about the work of author Andrea Camilleri (a citizen of Rome, now age "70 ", author of screenplays for Italian television, producer and director for TV and the theater, and award-winning novelist and short story writer) that it was inevitable that I would find the time to start his "Inspector Montalbano" series with "A Shape of Water".
I must admit I'm puzzled as to how the title ties into the story, but know this -- I probably won't stop until I've read them all. At this point, 4 of the 7 novels have been translated into English. First published in 1994, this novel has been translated into 8 languages, and began to circulate in English in 2002. The translator, American Stephen Sartarelli, does a fine job, and, although there is a breakdown from time to time in sentence structure, Sartarelli provides three dozen notes in the back of the book, to help Americans understand Sicilian customs and culture. This goes a long way to breaking down the barriers to the book.
Having not yet read the remaining books, I believe that they probably succeed in developing tighter story lines, and allowing us to build on Montalbano's quaint idiosyncracies. Hopefully, they'll include more of his childhood friend, Gege, who is now Vigata's leading pimp...
"Salvo and Gege were listless schoolboys, learning their lessons like parrots".....(now as adults)..Gege: "And I tell you in my own interest. Because for a big cheese like Luparello to come and croak at the Pasture, isn't good for business....Can I go now? These are peak hours at the Pasture."
One word of note, this work, and probably that of the following novels, is graphic in the use of foul language and sexual situations. If this bothers you, you're not going to want to read on.
I'm definitely impressed and am going on to read the next books in series, with the hope that the international audience is right...Camilleri just keeps getting better and better.
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on January 30, 2004
In a grotesque death, Sicilian politician and wealthy engineer Silvio Luparello, is found in a remote "pasture", or the equivalent of a lonely stretch of land where prostitutes ply their trade in their clients' cars. Garbagemen find the car, and the body, with its pants around its knees, and we are immediately struck by how much effort is expended to downplay the incident and cover up the cause of death.
Into this mess comes well-respected middle-aged Inspector Salvo Montalbano, a life-long resident of the fictional Sicilian coastal town of Vigata. The novel follows Montalbano's clever and well-manuevered search for the truth; letting the reader meet local politicians, Montalbano's friends and colleagues, the family of the dead man, and a mysterious and roundheeled woman who races cars for a living, and is somehow entangled in Luparello's death. In a sidebar, Montalbano also makes the acquaintance of the garbagemen, and learns of a serious healthcare crisis with the child of one of them.
As he researches the case, Montalbano breaks a lot of rules, but delicately, becomes chagrined over the affections of a young police officer (the daughter of his old friend), makes time to woo his own love, Livia, in Genoa, and flies under the radar of town leaders, religious leaders and his superior officers, all of whom want him to close the case quickly, and admit that Luparello dies of natural causes.
The reader develops an appreciation for Montalbano's subtlety, and his art in acquiring delicious food from friends, restaurants, and his own kitchen...Montalbano loves a good meal. The cynicism and humor are subtle here, poking gentle fun at Sicilian political customs, such as a killing where everyone hopes the death was a Mafia hit, so that they don't have to search for the real cause.
I'm recommending this book wholeheartedly. I've read so much that's good about the work of author Andrea Camilleri (a citizen of Rome, now age "70 ", author of screenplays for Italian television, producer and director for TV and the theater, and award-winning novelist and short story writer) that it was inevitable that I would find the time to start his "Inspector Montalbano" series with "A Shape of Water". I must admit I'm puzzled as to how the title ties into the story, but know this -- I probably won't stop until I've read them all.
At this point, 4 of the 7 novels have been translated into English. First published in 1994, this novel has been translated into 8 languages, and began to circulate in English in 2002. The translator, American Stephen Sartarelli, does a fine job, and, although there is a breakdown from time to time in sentence structure, Sartarelli provides three dozen notes in the back of the book, to help Americans understand Sicilian customs and culture. This goes a long way to breaking down the barriers to the book.
Having not yet read the remaining books, I believe that they probably succeed in developing tighter story lines, and allowing us to build on Montalbano's quaint idiosyncracies. Hopefully, they'll include more of his childhood friend, Gege, who is now Vigata's leading pimp... "Salvo and Gege were listless schoolboys, learning their lessons like parrots".....(now as adults)..Gege: "And I tell you in my own interest. Because for a big cheese like Luparello to come and croak at the Pasture, isn't good for business....Can I go now? These are peak hours at the Pasture."
One word of note, this work, and probably that of the following novels, is graphic in the use of foul language and sexual situations. If this bothers you, you're not going to want to read on.
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on January 29, 2004
I've read so much that's good about the work of author Andrea Camilleri (a citizen of Rome, now age "70 ", author of screenplays for Italian television, producer and director for TV and the theater, and award-winning novelist and short story writer) that it was inevitable that I would find the time to start his "Inspector Montalbano" series with "A Shape of Water".
I must admit I'm puzzled as to how the title ties into the story, but know this -- I probably won't stop until I've read them all. At this point, 4 of the 7 novels have been translated into English. First published in 1994, this novel has been translated into 8 languages, and began to circulate in English in 2002. The translator, American Stephen Sartarelli, does a fine job, and, although there is a breakdown from time to time in sentence structure, Sartarelli provides three dozen notes in the back of the book, to help Americans understand Sicilian customs and culture. This goes a long way to breaking down the barriers to the book.
Synopsis of the plot:
In a grotesque death, Sicilian politician and wealthy engineer Silvio Luparello, is found in a remote "pasture", or the equivalent of a lonely stretch of land where prostitutes ply their trade in their clients' cars. Garbagemen find the car, and the body, with its pants around its knees, and we are immediately struck by how much effort is expended to downplay the incident and cover up the cause of death. Into this mess comes well-respected middle-aged Inspector Salvo Montalbano, a life-long resident of the fictional Sicilian coastal town of Vigata.
The novel follows Montalbano's clever and well-manuevered search for the truth; letting the reader meet local politicians, Montalbano's friends and colleagues, the family of the dead man, and a mysterious and roundheeled woman who races cars for a living, and is somehow entangled in Luparello's death. In a sidebar, Montalbano also makes the acquaintance of the garbagemen, and learns of a serious healthcare crisis with the child of one of them.
As he researches the case, Montalbano breaks a lot of rules, but delicately, becomes chagrined over the affections of a young police officer (the daughter of his old friend), makes time to woo his own love, Livia, in Genoa, and flies under the radar of town leaders, religious leaders and his superior officers, all of whom want him to close the case quickly, and admit that Luparello dies of natural causes.
The reader develops an appreciation for Montalbano's subtlety, and his art in acquiring delicious food from friends, restaurants, and his own kitchen...Montalbano loves a good meal. The cynicism and humor are subtle here, poking gentle fun at Sicilian political customs, such as a killing where everyone hopes the death was a Mafia hit, so that they don't have to search for the real cause.
Having not yet read the remaining books, I believe that they probably succeed in developing tighter story lines, and allowing us to build on Montalbano's quaint idiosyncracies. Hopefully, they'll include more of his childhood friend, Gege, who is now Vigata's leading pimp...
"Salvo and Gege were listless schoolboys, learning their lessons like parrots".....(now as adults)..Gege: "And I tell you in my own interest. Because for a big cheese like Luparello to come and croak at the Pasture, isn't good for business....Can I go now? These are peak hours at the Pasture."
Camilleri succeeds in zigzagging around in a satisfactory way, opening our eyes to the culture and humor of the Sicilians. One word of note, this work, and probably that of the following novels, is graphic in the use of foul language and sexual situations. If this bothers you, you're not going to want to read on.
I'm definitely impressed and am going on to read the next books in series, with the hope that the international audience is right...Camilleri just keeps getting better and better.
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on January 13, 2004
If you read the publisher's review you'll get a really good idea about what this book is about. So, should you read it? Yes. And who am I to say you should? Why should you read this? Do you like mysteries? Have you been looking for something a little different but still interesting, intriguing perhaps? Do you like you're protaganist's to be down to earth, humanely defective, but intelligent and with a sense of good taste? And I do mean a sense of taste for the finer foods in life. Inspector Montalbano is one cool cop with a few ticks that make him intriguingly funny and obtuse. This novel is witty and has a few new twists that are different from American/English writers. At first you may find that this novel "reads" a little differently from what you're used to. The names of people and places in Sicily may be a little overwhelming too at first, but don't give up! Read on! The story is so good that you'll find yourself reading it and the names and the different style will become a pleasant experience that may just lead you to read more of this great Italian writer, Andrea Camillera. I rated it 4 stars instead of 5, because having read the next two in the series, "The Terra-Cotta Dog" and "The Snack Thief", which are both 5 stars to me, this one was good but not as good. But it's a good book and a good introduction into the world of Andrea Camillera's sleuth, Inspector Salvo Montalbano. Highly entertaining. Try it, you'll like it.
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on December 23, 2003
Inspector Montalbano of the police force in the small Sicilian town of Vigata has to investigate the death of Silvio Lupanetto, an engineer and local political hotshot of the reigning christian democratic party. Mr Lupanetto has died of a massive heart attack while having sex, but the place where his body is found is suspicious: why would a cautious man like him go to the local prostitute and drug area? The inspector's investigations give a nice insight into Italian wheeling and dealing: sex schandals, rich people with an attitude, the Mafia, left versus right, corruption and bribing. In short, everything we Europeans suspect Italy to be. Italy is a lot more, but in this novel there are only hints of good food and drinks, a great culture and a lovely countryside.
The book is written in a very fluent style and the story has a number of twists and turns which makes it an enjoyable read. I would say 3½ stars, so let's make it 4 because this is the first book of a series and character of the inspector may still grow.
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