“In the seaside town of Vigàta, Sicily, innocence and idealism die even faster than the whores, drifters, and small-time Mafiosi who infest the village with an air of gritty decadence and menace. Those who succeed in Vigàta have learned an astonishing array of tricks, either sexual, political, or both. Those who stumble quickly learn new meanings to the words ferocity and horror… Fast-paced, sharp-edged, and laced with hard-boiled humor, The Shape of Water marks the debut of Inspector Montalbano, a wily gourmand whose inquiries only begin with the facts of the case. In between elaborately prepared meals, Montalbano also ponders the ethics of his profession and the uncertain nature of truth in a world largely given over to concealment and deception.”
The above excerpt is taken from the introduction of Sicilian author Andrea Camilleri’s first Inspector Montalbano book, The Shape of Water (available in English from Penguin Books).
Inspector Montalbano lives in the small Sicilian town of Vigàta (based on Camilleri’s hometown of Porto Empedocle) with a house right on the beach. He is the consummate bachelor. He is old school. He loves his detective work passionately, but is not concerned with a career and never allows politics or bureaucracy to clutter his keen sense of justice. It may not always be the law, but it is certainly justice.
A brooding man with a big heart he is the kind of man that many men envy. He is a true gentleman who always gets the girl without even trying. He has his routines and his quirks. His decisions are a mixture of wit and gut instinct. Consequences to his detriment are never factored into his actions because despite his exterior curtness he is an altruist. He is someone that you idealize in theory, but would not want to be in reality.
Undoubtedly, there is underlying melancholy in his musings about not being able to settle down, but that is what makes it appealing to read his stories, because for those who are married with children. He allows you to escape (briefly) to that place where you can do no wrong.
I do not know how Camilleri translates from the original Sicilian dialect that he uses to tell his stories, but Inspector Montalbano is engrossing and a quick read for those of us that must also run after the kids.