Friday, June 10, 2011

The Voice of the Violin, by Andrea Camilleri

Penguin Books, 2004
originally published as La voce del violino, 1997
249 pp

On to the fourth book in the Salvo Montalbano series with Voice of the Violin.  Although this one is not quite as humorous as its predecessors, it continues Camilleri's most excellent writing and delves more into the characters previously introduced.  This installment is much more focused on plot, although it does bring out Montalbano's more sensitive and compassionate side as he focuses on a most difficult personal issue carried over from events that began in The Snack Thief.

The story begins when Gallo, the Vigata station's official driver, picks up the Inspector to drive him to a funeral. Unfortunately, Gallo suffers from "Indianapolis Complex," and while driving too fast, plows into a parked car. On the return trip, Montalbano notices the car is still parked.  Unable to sleep and bothered by the fact that the car hadn't moved and that the note he had left was still there, Montalbano later returns to the scene of the accident, goes to the owner's home, and let himself into the house. It is there that he discovers the body of a woman who had been suffocated to death.  When the crime is reported "anonymously," the police are sent to investigate. Unfortunately for Montalbano, the forensics team discovers that he's left fingerprints everywhere, and on top of this, political maneuvers lead to the Inspector being taken off the case, which is handed over to the flying squad, who promptly shoot their number one suspect.  But do they have the right guy?

Complicating Montalbano's life are unfinished issues with Livia, a woman named Anna Tropeano (a friend of the deceased), and all of the politics involved with Montalbano's new boss. However, none of these issues put a stop to his gourmet appetite and his ongoing friendship with Clementina Vasile Cozzo, to whom Montalbano has "remained as a son."  But what does all of this have to do with a violin? Unknowingly, Clementina will help Salvo get to the truth of the mystery of the dead woman on a Friday morning, when (as is her weekly custom) she gets dressed up and listens to her upstairs neighbor Cataldo Barbera, a reclusive but internally-known violinist, play for her.

The core mystery is excellent -- as is the path to its solution.  How Montalbano deals with the problems brought on by having a new boss who hates him is one of the better parts of this book, but is a situation  in which he has to enlist several of the series' continuing characters.  With each book, returning to this group of friends and colleagues is like returning to people you've known for a long time. That's just one reason I love this series, but it's a big one. And as noted earlier, this particular story is not as funny as the previous ones, but that's okay -- I love reading crime fiction for the crimes and their solutions, and Camilleri did not disappoint in this novel.

Definitely recommended to all readers of crime fiction, whether you like your crime deep and satisfyingly bad or a bit on the lighter side.

crime fiction from Italy

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