Friday, June 3, 2011

The Snack Thief, by Andrea Camilleri

Penguin Books, 2005
Originally published as Il ladro di merendine, 1996
translated by Stephen Sartarelli
298 pp.

As I work my way through this series, Andrea Camilleri is quickly becoming one of my favorite crime fiction authors, and Salvo Montalbano one of my favorite characters.  How can you not like him? He's  grumpy, cantankerous, and crabby and yet he has a compassionate side.  He lives for the best, most delectable food, and although flawed in many ways, he has an incredible handle on human nature. The Snack Thief is number three in this series, and I wasted absolutely no time after Terra-Cotta Dog to start this book. And after finishing this book, I opened up the next one, The Voice of the Violin. I have a feeling that when that one's over, it's going to be on to number five and on down the line until I've finished every book that's been published in this series.  That's how good these books really are and how much I like them.

The day starts out badly for Montalbano as the story begins, when he is awakened early in the morning by a call from Catarella at the Vigata station. A Tunisian man was killed when the trawler on which he was working was attacked by a Tunisian patrol boat. The trawler was in international waters, and since someone was killed, the government is forced to intervene.  And because the boat came into Vigata, the nearest port, the police there are supposed to provide a detailed report because of the possible international repercussions. Montalbano would prefer not to get involved, and is happy when Mimi Augello takes it on.  The Inspector has a more intriguing case to work on -- that of a businessman named Lapecora, who was found stabbed and dead in the elevator of his apartment building.  As he's investigating this crime, another report is called in about someone stealing pre-lunch snacks from school children.  As he focuses on Lapecora's death, more mysteries begin to reveal themselves, whetting Montalbano's appetite just as much as the promise of alalonga all'agrodolce prepared by his friend Calogero at a local restaurant. And while all of this is going on, Livia decides to come for a visit.

The Snack Thief is a wonderful read.  There are multiple layers of mystery at work in this novel, and as each one is revealed, the story becomes a bit more intriguing.  The characters once again take center stage -- not only are the usual players here, but there are new ones who play off of Montalbano, bringing out different sides of his character. There are many humorous moments,  in the police station, or when Montalbano's hunger makes him a bit grumpy, and especially in the way he deals with his growing (but unfounded) jealousy of Livia and Mimi Augello.  Stephen Sartarelli's translation is so well done that the book just flows -- there is not a line out of place, nor is there any point at which the narrative comes off even a bit awkwardly.  It's absolutely incredible how well the translation captures all the characters' eccentricities, especially those belonging to Montalbano.

I can definitely recommend this one with absolutely no reservations. It will definitely appeal to all readers of crime fiction, from those who read cozy novels on through noir fans.  I admire Camilleri's writing talent, and can't wait to get through the entire series.

crime fiction from Italy


  1. This is the only Camilleri I have read so far, and I also liked the boy very much. So far I have not felt tempted to read the whole series, though - but I know I am in the minority.

  2. Hi and thanks for stopping by! I liked the boy too -- and can't wait to see what happens in the next book. I'm reading the series right now to get to Wings of the Sphinx (nominated for the International Dagger), but I think I'll keep right on going.

  3. I have read about six books in which Inspector Montalbano solves crimes, while he anticipates, eats or reminiscences about his delicious meals.

    Had stopped for awhile to read other books, but just read The Wings of the Sphinx. I could not put it down, and laughed throughout.

    I would race through the entire series over the summer, but global book challenges and awards' nominations compete for my attention.

    So, I will balance Montalbano with the Dagger shortlist, books from several continents, and some U.S.-published good books.

    Some of the funniest moments I've read about in crime fiction have come from this series. And some of the most humane also, including in August Heat.

    This interview is causing me to go immediately to the library system and reserve this book.


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