As I have thought for a couple of reviews now, there’s really not much you can say about an individual book in the Salvo Montalbano series that hasn’t been said about the previous umpteen books in the series. Aside from a detailed discussion of the plot of course but I am loathe to do that.
One thing that did strike me most forcefully though is that while the series may slavishly follow a formula that formula is very distinctive. I’ve not come across any imitators – pale or otherwise – which is, if you think about it – quite odd. Most successful books or series have a certain kind of author and/or publisher scrounging to produce something similar in the hopes of hoodwinking the reading public into buying their crap but I don’t think I’ve ever noticed any “the next Camilleri” stickers on any book blurbs. I choose to be grateful for that.
TREASURE HUNT opens with the usual absurd tone as two elderly siblings start firing on the good citizens of Vigàta, a fictional town in southern Italy, from their apartment on the top floor of a building next to City Hall. Although Montalbano is forced to daringly climb a fire-engine ladder, surviving an attack of vertigo on the way, to the apartment’s balcony the couple are soon brought under control with no loss of life. Their apartment is discovered to be jam packed with religious artifacts and one very creepy inflatable doll but there seems to be no more to the matter. Until another inflatable doll is found (this time in a dumpster) and then Montalbano starts receiving clues to some kind of treasure hunt.
If I’m being completely honest the crime plotting is actually pretty lazy here – anyone who is even a moderately well-read fan of the genre will spot whodunnit (or who’s going to do it as soon as it happens) almost as soon as they appear in the story and the plot elements are all predictable – but I’ve learned not to read Camilleri for its crime fiction credentials. I read Camilleri for the escape.
Each book offers the opportunity for a virtual trip to Montalbano’s Italy where he (and his two inner voices) observe goings-on with a dry wit and an often piercingly accurate take on politics and human behaviour that means I spend most of the book smiling and occasionally laugh out loud. In between the occasional foray into police work there are gorgeously described meals to salivate over, leisurely walks on the beachfront to envy and surreal conversations with the verbally challenged desk sergeant to chuckle over. Lately I also know that Montalbano will obsess over his ageing and have problems with women. In short I know now exactly what to expect with the books and I have not yet grown tired of that particular set of characteristics.
The crime ostensibly at the heart of TREASURE HUNT is actually very nasty and might normally be a bit of a turn off but as the crime solving never feels terribly important to author or sleuth it doesn’t have that bothersome realistic feel that would make it bother me more. Instead I’ve just enjoyed my annual virtual trip to Montalbano’s version of Italy and look forward to my next trip.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Translator Stephen Sartarelli
Publisher Penguin Books [2013, original edition 2010]
Length 278 pages
Book Series #16 in the Inspector Montalbano series
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