Friday, June 17, 2011

The Smell of the Night, by Andrea Camilleri

Penguin Books,  2005
originally published as L'odore della notte, 2001
translated by Stephen Sartarelli
229 pp.

"Did you say the smell of the night?"
"Yes. The night changes smells, depending on the hour."

Montalbano's back and once again in his sixth case of the series. This time he gets involved with the case of a missing financial "genius" who had gained the trust of several investors and then promptly disappeared, taking their money with him. Did he go off to "live it up with beautiful half-naked women" in Polynesia, or did Emanuele Gargano take some money off of a very angry and vengeful Mafioso?  Nobody knows, although Montalbano's superiors are inclined to believe the latter (as they generally do, even when unfounded), while Montalbano runs his own investigation.  But Montalbano is in trouble with the Commissioner over his actions during a previous case, not having to do with the job, but dealing with a boy named Francois first introduced in The Snack Thief.  He's also once again in trouble with Livia, Mimi's got a case of pre-wedding jitters, and someone's gone and cut down the old olive tree where he goes to think.  Worst of all, he feels the "ignoble head" of old age coming on.

The Smell of the Night offers its readers a solid mystery, a great investigation and one of the most impressive endings of this series so far.  As far as the whodunit is concerned, I had absolutely no clue up until the final denouement, which is always a great thing. But as usual, it is the author's finely-honed sense of place that steals the show, along with his devotion to continuing character development, and his introduction of some new and rather quirky people that help Montalbano throughout the case.  And let's not forget the food.

As I continue through this series, it's getting a bit difficult to find new things to say about these books, because although some may be a bit better than others, I'm finding that I am loving them all.  All the things that make one book good are continued throughout the rest.  Perhaps some of the crimes and their solutions aren't as good in one or two of these books as they are in others, but I've come to realize that I'm really reading them at this point just to see what's going to happen next with Montalbano and his colleagues at the Vigata police station.  When all is said and done, and I move on to another author's works,  I'm probably not going to remember specific crimes in Camilleri's novels, but I'll definitely remember the setting,  the food and especially the crazy group of characters surrounding Montalbano.

As with every previous book, I definitely recommend this one, and since I tend to be a series-reading purist, I'd say start with the first book, The Shape of Water and make your way forward so you don't miss anything.

crime fiction from Italy

1 comment:

  1. When you finish the series and look back, you'll remember that the books were entertaining, lots of fun and wit and filled with idiosyncratic characters. And that the books provided a few hours of vacation in Vigata, distraction and diversion, as a vacation should.


I don't care what you write, but do be nice about it