Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri


For me, this was a typical police procedural, an interesting story, but not the best of the Inspector Salvo Montalbano novels.

The story begins when authorities find the nude corpse of a beautiful woman in a local dump.  

As Montalbano and his crew investigate the crime, they stumble on two crimes.  One is the original murder done for petty and self-serving reasons.  The other is a timely international crime which has come to involve the local Roman Catholic church.

The whole investigation is routine.  Everyone except Montalbano walks gingerly around the church.   (After all, police work is political in both Italy and the USA.  That's one of the sad realities of life.)

As usual, Montalbano eats all kinds of wonderful meals and spends a large portion of the book fighting with his live-in lover (who at this time is not living in).

For me, the interest in these books revolves around the personality of Salvo Montalbano.   His typically Sicilian way of responding to things is not so clear in this book. 

If Montalbano were a U.S. policeman, he would be banned from the force after his interrogation methods were exposed by The Inquirer. 

I had a quibble with this book.  One semi-major character speaks with a dialect I had trouble reading.  I wish the dialect had been more subtly portrayed.

I read the Montalbano books almost as a cultural imperative.  My father was born soon after his mother got off the boat from Sicily.  I love reading about true Sicilian characters, and Montalbano is certainly a true Sicilian character. 

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As for the title of the book, the story explains it.

4 comments:

R. T. said...

Joe, I reluctantly refuse to read your posting! You see, I have recently received a copy of the new Camilleri novel, which you have reviewed, and I want to avoid being "prejudiced" by someone else's reading. However, when I've finished with Camilleri, I look forward to returning to your review, and we can then compare notes.

Joe Barone said...

Fair enough!

pattinase (abbott) said...

I love those covers and hope to read one in the near future.

Joe Barone said...

Patti,
They are very striking covers. These are police procedural novels with what I would call a typically Sicilian protagonist.

My father was an American citizen born of Sicilian immigrant parents. Montalbano is a very different person than my father was, but he and my dad have so many common personality traits. That's what fascinates me about the character.