Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri is Italy's most famous writer of gialli - mysteries.  Before he wrote them, he produced them for television, making the acclaimed Maigret series.  But it is for his Commissario Montalbano Series that he is most famous.  The books are written in Italian and available in translation in various languages.

From the description of The Shape of Water:
Andrea Camilleri's novels starring Inspector Montalbano have become an international sensation and have been translated from Italian into eight languages, ranging from Dutch to Japanese. The Shape of Water is the first book in this sly, witty, and engaging series with its sardonic take on Sicilian life.
Early one morning, Silvio Lupanello, a big shot in the village of Vigàta, is found dead in his car with his pants around his knees. The car happens to be parked in a rough part of town frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers, and as the news of his death spreads, the rumors begin. Enter Inspector Salvo Montalbano, Vigàta's most respected detective. With his characteristic mix of humor, cynicism, compassion, and love of good food, Montalbano goes into battle against the powerful and the corrupt who are determined to block his path to the real killer.

The first book in the series, The Shape of Water, is a good introduction to the very traditional style of these police procedurals.  There is a crime discovered.  Montalbano is called in.  He talks to the family, the medical examiner, the suspects, fights with his boss, argues with his colleagues, then has an inspiration and captures the bad guy, preferably with a full confession.

Sicilian Montalbano works in his beloved Sicily.  And when he's not solving crimes and arresting bad guys, he's enjoying the beaches, good wine, great food, and quirky inhabitants of the ancient island.  There is also his girlfriend, Livia, who is treated rather shabbily throughout the series, as are pretty much all the female partners, actually, which is why this is not one of my favorite series.

The books in the series as English translations:
  1. The Shape of Water  (La forma dell’acqua)
  2. The Terracotta Dog - (Il cane di terracotta)
  3. The Snack Thief (Il ladro di merendine)
  4. The Voice of the Violin  (La voce del violino)
  5. Excursion to Tindari  (La gita a Tindari)
  6. The Scent of the Night  (L’odore della notte)
  7. Rounding the Mark  (Il giro di boa)
  8. The Patience of the Spider (La pazienza del ragno)
  9. The Paper Moon  (La Luna di Carta)
  10. August Heat  (La Vampa d'Agosto)
  11. The Wings of the Sphinx  (Le Ali della Sfinge)
  12. The Track of Sand (La pista di Sabbia)
  13. The Potter's Field  (Il campo del vasaio)
  14. The Age of Doubt (L'età del dubbio)
  15. The Dance of the Seagull (La danza del gabbiano)
  16. Treasure Hunt (La caccia al tesoro)
  17. Angelica's Smile (Il sorriso di Angelica)
  18. Game of Mirrors (Il gioco degli specchi

The series has been filmed for Italian television and is available on DVD, some with English subtitles.  Be prepared for beautiful location filming, some incomprehensible language, and lots of macho men who lie far too easily to their women, who are, generally-speaking, not treated with much respect.

The TV series stars Luca Zingaretti and is a huge hit in Italy and Germany.  A German actress plays Montalbano's long-suffering girlfriend.  The Montalbano series is filmed on location in Sicily, which brings stunning locations to the police-dramas.  And they score it with Sicilian music for added flavor.

Dear to Montalbano's heart is eating, especially at his favorite restaurant with his favorite chef.  He is known to lie to colleagues and girlfriend about his whereabouts to conceal his preference for eating over their company.

Here is a clip from the series:

The books are available in various formats including paperback, e-book, and audio-book.  Here are the versions of The Shape of Water, the first book in the series, at

Please visit the author Camilleri's website.

This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.

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