Some crime novels that are part of long running series can be read, and reviewed, in isolation while others, like the adventures of Salvo Montalbano, can’t really be appreciated in this way. To me THE DANCE OF THE SEAGULL reads very much like a long-ish chapter in a whopper of a book rather than a complete entity in its own right and on one level that kind of grates on my nerves (I am increasingly annoyed by unfinished business). However the book is so funny and so clever and so…Camilleri… that I can’t help but love reading it and be sad that another dose of life in Vigàta is once again over.
Not that it matters overly much but the story of this one is more compelling than some of its immediate predecessors, focusing on the search for Inspector Montalbano’s much loved colleague Fazio who seems to have disappeared in odd circumstances. Such is Montalbano’s worry and need to do everything possible to locate his friend that he completely forgets his plans to take a holiday with his occasional girlfriend Livia and at one point he physically collapses under the strain of it all.
But these novels are never really about the stories. At least not for me. They’re about the sensibility Camilleri provides…an enveloping sense of place, a humour that oscillates between near-slapstick and being surreal, a central character who is never entirely likeable but is always interesting, a perspective on life in Modern Italy – the politics, the corruption, the often inexplicable inability of anything or anyone to be on time, the reverence for good food. And they’re about a fairly normal man triumphing over the dim-witted and/or corrupt people around him, be they criminals or his bosses. There’s a lot to love about all of that.
As always there are niggles with the book including the persistently poor depiction of women, Montalbano’s obsession with his age (at 57 he comes across as someone nearer 75 with all his ailments and woes) and a couple of fairly silly insertions of the real world of Camilleri the author into Montalban’s fictional world. But for fans none of this will matter as they lap up the instalment with delight and perhaps, as I do each and every time, dream of holidays in Italy and a world in which the bad guys are occasionally outwitted.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Translator Stephen Sartarelli
Publisher Pan Macmillan (this edition 2013, original edition 2009]
Length 281 pages
Book Series #15 in the Montalbano series
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