Musings: TREASURE HUNT by Andrea Camilleri

TreasureHuntCamilleriAs 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]
ISBN 9780143122623
Length 278 pages
Format paperback
Book Series #16 in the Inspector Montalbano series

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5 Responses to Musings: TREASURE HUNT by Andrea Camilleri

  1. Bernadette – Oh, I’m glad too that there are no stickers or blurbs like that. Camilleri does have a unique way of going about telling his stories and over the years I’ve come to really appreciate it, considering all the ‘sameyness’ out there. I know what you mean about his stories having a lot of commonalities among them but that doesn’t bother me. Thanks for your review of this one; let’s hope there are many more to come.

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  2. Beth says:

    Ahh,Bernadette,the so delicious Camilleri! But you didn’t mention the contribution Stephen Satarelli’s translation makes, or those wonderful footnotes that add so much …

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    • i must admit the only disappointing thing about this installment was that the footnotes were not terribly good this time – only a handful and all very factual with none of the snippets of political and social observation that are usually there.

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  4. Kathy D. says:

    I, too, enjoy Montalbano’s adventures, his insomniac musings, his wit, and, of course, his gourmet/gourmand experiences. I find myself wanting to race out the door, and run to the nearest Italian restaurant for pasta and pesce every time Montalbano eats a meal or remembers a particularly good fish dish.
    I always enjoy tuning out the world and digging into the goings-on in Vigata, even now watching the dvd’s of the TV episodes.
    However, I also figured out whodunnit, as I’m sure most crime fiction readers have done, but I object to the violence at the end, the not necessary bloody, gristly, brutal murder scene. (I also found this true in The Dance of the Seagull, the prior book).
    Camilleri is too good a writer to have to resort to describing this level of violence. Most of his prior books did not do this. I find this happening with a lot of authors lately. Is it that they’ve run out of ideas or publishers are pressuring them to write more violence?
    Friends of mine who love this series are annoyed at the graphic brutality in the last two books, too.
    I’ll always be true to this Sicilian detective and his creator, but, gosh, I hope they ease up on the violent denouements. One goes to Vigata to relax and be distracted.

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