Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nine Years Late, I Discover Andrea Camilleri

I finally started reading Andrea Camilleri after years of buying his books and I am kicking myself for having waited so long to read him.  A friend who I always listen to when it comes to fiction told me back in 2005 that she had just discovered a newly translated Sicilian crime writer and that I should keep my eye on him.  I half listened to her advice and bought Camilleri's first book (I should say his first crime novel - which he wrote at the age of 70 - after years of writing historical fiction, directing in the theater, and producing television) The Shape of Water.

I can't believe how good these books are.  In the past few weeks, I've devoured The Shape of Water, The Terra Cotta Dog, The Snack Thief, and Voice of the Violin.  I started the fifth Inspector Montalbano novel, Excursion to Tindari, last night.

I love reading police procedurals and technically, Camilleri's books follow Inspector Montalbano and the officers under him as they solve crimes in a coastal town in Sicily.  But the focus isn't so much the ins and outs of police work but a survey of modern day Italy.  The writing is often heavy on dialogue (sometimes very earthy), the pace is often brisk, and not everything is spelled out for the reader.  Reading a Montalbano story always makes me hungry - he's constantly eating good food.  So why are these books so good?  Camilleri is old and wise, bitter and funny.  Italy and Sicily provide rich source material.  And Camilleri is very clearly a fan of crime fiction and it feels as his life's work magically lead him to lay golden eggs.

I love the covers and even love the way to spines look. (None of the above pictures are mine.)

My goal is to make sure I have finished reading all of the published books this summer and be ready for the next installment in the series when it is published in September.

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