The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri
Translated by Stephen Sartarelli
Viking Penguin, 2002
Originally published as La forma dell’acqua by Sellerio editore, 1994
Book 1 in the Inspector Montalbano series
So I picked up the first Inspector Montalbano book after hearing so many good things about the television version of his books (it hasn’t aired in the U.S. yet). I wasn’t sure what to expect except a focus on corrupt government officials, and the book definitely covered that. The cover didn’t really give me an accurate feel for the novel. It’s billed as “a novel about wine, food and homicide in a small town in Sicily.” There’s a bit of wine and food in this novel, but not lots. It doesn’t really feel like a travel-to-Sicily type of novel to me, but that’s not to put down the setting of the novel.
It’s a police procedural in a small town in Sicily, a town where crime gangs are feuding and killing each other, a town where the army appears to restore law and order, and a town with plenty of political intrigue. The mystery revolves around the death of the death of a political operative named Luparello, who is found dead in his car in the Pasture, an area of town known for prostitution. Montalbano works on the case for a limited period of time though the coroner rules the death of natural causes. His investigation leads him in several scandalous directions.
The mystery revolving around a political sex scandal was not the most interesting aspect of the book for me. The character of Montalbano was more interesting. His friend the police commissioner calls him, “a friend whom I know to possess an intelligence, an acumen, and, most important, a courtesy in human relations quite rare nowadays.” He does seem pretty respectful of everyone he interviews during the course of the investigation. The ending does point out, however, that he may not be the perfect inspector, which is an interesting take that I’m sure fuels subsequent novels in this series. I think he’s more into justice than the letter of the law.