Tuesday, August 2, 2011

THE TRACK OF SAND by Andrea Camilleri

The Inspector Montalbano novels are humorous police procedurals. 

It is the humor that catches me.

The humor comes, not out of situations, but out of the characters, especially Montalbano.  Sometimes he is inept, sometimes brilliant, and sometimes just Sicilian, just a volatile personality.  He spends most days eating huge meals, and he always has an active sex life.

In the 12th book in the series, The Track of Sand, Montalbano finds a beaten dead horse on his beachfront.  His anger at the crime causes him to decide he’ll find out who did it.  While he is inside arranging to have the horse hauled away, the horse’s carcass disappears.

Never mind that someone stole the horse in another jurisdiction.  Never mind that responsibility to investigate lies in other hands.  Montalbano doesn’t tell that jurisdiction about finding the horse or its later disappearance.  All they know is that someone stole the horse (in fact two horses) in the first place.

The ins and outs of the bureaucracy are a major theme in these stories.  Montalbano is a genius at manipulating the stuffed-shirts above him.

Along the way, Montalbano balances connections with three beautiful women and deals with his own house almost being torched.  He thinks about a Mafia case in which he has to testify, and, finally, he sets up a clever frame to convict the horse-killer of a crime he didn’t commit.

Meanwhile, Montalbano eats great meals, liberally drinks good alcohol, attends the races (where he is uncomfortable), and entertains himself in other ways.

Whenever I write about these books, I feel the need to mention their translator Stephen Sartarelli.  I have no way of evaluating the translation except to know that I enjoy the books, and Mr. Sartarelli surely has a great part in that.

I will probably go back and read this series through.


Anonymous said...

These books are great and I enjoy them. I am in the middle of the Track of Sand book now.

Joe Barone said...

I enjoy them. My father was the son of Sicilian immigrants born soon after they arrived here. Montalbano is so much like Dad was in personality. I love the books.