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Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Commissario

I've found my next love. Some of you might be aware of the Inspector Montalbano series currently showing on BBC4 which is pretty damn good. Luca Zingaretti is completely on the money as the title character - he obviously has a good grasp of the humour of the scripts and uses a lot of physical expression (very important for a Sicilian character) as well as vocal and emotional. The character Montalbano much be such fun to play, a suave, food-loving, cynical yet sensitive, attractive yet, for many reasons, unavailable man fighting for truth and resolution in a hectic and disturbing world. I watch the TV series like it's my marijuana, I light it up and am completely out of the real world until it's out of my system. The only logical thing I could do is buy Andrea Camilleri's novels, ably translated into English by Stephen Sartarelli.

The good thing about the books (well, the book since I've only read The Shape of Water thus far. I'm currently awaiting the next instalment, The Terracotta Dog, which can't bloody come quick enough!) is that they do follow the Italian crime-fiction tradition of lack of a happy ending. Yes, Montalbano is an extremely clever guy and gets to the bottom of the mystery, but realises that he cannot get sufficient evidence for a prosecution and therefore has to let the case conclude in exactly the way he had been fighting against the whole case (the structure of the novel is set up in a way to remind you of the pressures Montalbano is under, therefore raising the tension and really driving on the narrative). I guess the experience of that is more rewarding because you feel part of a very select group of people who know the truth, but still have the disappointment of knowing it made no real difference.

That's the 'big picture', if you like, but in the short term of every chapter you are simply soaked in a writing style that is much like a good Chianti; the rich flavour of Sicilian scenery, the oaky maturity of Andrea Camilleri's politically-savvy observation and the full body, underpinning it all, comes from the brilliantly drawn characters whose humour, back stories and believability combine to perfection.

It's not all good though, there is a wee niggle. When I reached the end, I found the revelation of the crime plot to be a little too blazĂ©, like it was just explained as a footballer might reel through a list of racist incidents he has perpetrated before not being prosecuted. Just a bit too 'matter of fact'. However, it must be explained, the initial account of the plot is not the only one. I don't really want to spoil the ending for those of you who haven't read it, but I'll just say that even though the 'big reveal' is the worst bit of the novel, it still has a flair and originality that - as someone who, in terms of crime fiction, has basically only read Sherlock Holmes, but seen adaptations of Sherlock, Miss Marple, Poirot etc - took me by surprise and is instantly endearing. The final few words reveal just a little bit more mystery about the inspector and, as I said before, I WANT MORE!!!

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