Heatwaves can be murder!

August Heat by Andrea Camilleri (trans Stephen Sartarelli)

This is the third of Camilleri’s novels that I’ve read, the tenth in the popular series featuring Inspector Salvo Montalbano, and it was the most enjoyable yet.

It’s nearing the middle of August and the heat in Sicily is getting unbearable.  Montalbano’s girlfriend Livia is arriving soon with friends to stay in a villa he’s found for them.  Salvo is looking forward to some quality time with Livia.  The villa looks perfect, but they are plagued by cockroaches and mice, then Bruno, Livia’s friend’s son goes missing.  He is discovered down in an illegal basement buried below the house – empty for years – except for a trunk – with a body in it!

Livia and her friends flee back home, leaving Salvo to suffer in the searing heat and conduct a murder investigation without a fan in his office.  Added to that, the builders are obviously crooked and covering up for each other.  The normally dapper and gourmet inspector can hardly bear to do anything, it’s so hot.  Eating hot food is out, and he’s spending half his time in the shower or sitting in his office in his underpants and missing Livia – this story is suffused with heat, humidity and sweat!  But we know that Salvo will get his man, loyally supported by the ever trusty Fazio, even though he nearly gets distracted by a pretty girl on this case…

I love Montalbano, the fifty-something batchelor with his long-distance girlfriend. Like all the best literary detectives, he has a healthy dose of disrespect for bureaucracy and his deskbound superiors and is not afraid to tear up the rulebook when needed.   The Italian way of doing things and Mediterranean location make for interesting plots.  There is a good dose of humour in these novels too, giving light and enjoyable reads.  I remember when I read the first in the series (The Shape of Water), I found the translation rather cool and dry, but like the heat in this novel, Sartarelli’s translation is thoroughly warmed up by now! He adds some useful pages of notes about various Italianisms and background stories at the end too which are better than footnotes.  (Book requested from the Amazon Vine programme, 8/10)


15 thoughts on “Heatwaves can be murder!

  1. I went through a phase of reading everything I could get my hands on about Italy (including mysteries by Michael Dibdin, Donna Leona and Magdalen Nabb) but none by Italian authors including Camilleri probably because translated crime fiction wasn’t that widely available then. I’ve heard lots of good things about his novels, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to read him in the near future.

    • I never got on with Dibdin, enjoy Donna Leon, and haven’t read any Madgalene Nabb (one to watch out for). Camilleri is great though – you should try him.

  2. Ooh is this out in paperback yet? I would normally read detective fiction from the library but Camilleri has joined the select few that I always buy (the others are Donna Leon and James Lee Burke)although finances mean that I have to wait for the paperback.
    Junior daughter takes her GCSE Italian this summer and is agitating to go to Sicily for next year’s holiday as the Italian assistant is Sicilian and keeps telling her how beautiful it is so I will have to see if I can follow in Montalbano’s footsteps if we do!

    • Sadly, the pbk isn’t out until June, but Amazon has used hardbacks from 5.99.

      I love Italy, but I’ve not been to Sicily, although I’d like to. My mum keeps going on about Taormina with its Roman amphitheatre.
      I wouldn’t go in August though!

  3. Hello, excuse me for my stupid curiosity…Camilleri writes in Dialect from Sicily: siciliano…what about the translation? Is it all in English???

    • Yes Miriam, they’ve all been translated by Stephen Sartarelli – an American poet who lives in France – very international. In the notes he describes the difference between local vernacular and ‘proper Italian’. One of the policemen speaks in Silician which comes out in translation a bit like New York v Brooklyn. Hope that gives you a flavour!

  4. Very intersting…I just made a search on internet about the translator: Stephan Santarelli.

  5. Good morning and thank you for let me know all this.
    But maybe you remember, I like very much Agatha Christie and all that is very British.
    And, sorry if I ask this here: did you read “The Guernesey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”?. It is not a detective story, but an epistolary novel about the Secon World War and the occupation of Guernesay by Germans. Very, very, nice.

    • Yes I read it when it first came out. It was a lovely novel which I enjoyed very much, although it was for me in danger of becoming ‘twee’ and oversentimental, it just about managed to stay on the right side of that.

  6. I know what you mean about the Guernsey book (sorry the title is just too long!) but fortunately it didn’t topple over the edge of ‘twee-dom’.
    I enjoyed some of the Aurelio Zen books, but by no means all but I did like Magdalen Nabb’s books. They are set in Florence but the main character is Sicilian and appears to be a lot more bumbling than he is in reality which of course means that he often deals with the crime more efficiently than his superiors! Sadly Magdalen Nabb died a couple of years ago so there wont be any more but there are quite a few books about the Marshal(he’s in the Carabinieri rather than plain clothes like Brunetti)

    • The cover art is by Jeff Fisher – but I can’t lay my hands on Capt Corelli etc to cross-check.

  7. I love the picture your little girl drew!
    My grown-up children still remember and talk about their experience in Venice and the ferry ride. We spend a lot of time in Italy in the Roman countryside.
    I used to read Michael Dibdin in the 1990’s such as Dead Lagoon and found the background and characters believable and authentic.
    John Berendt’s City of Falling Angels is a non-fiction portrait of Venice at the time of the fire at the Fenice opera house when he was a guest in residence.
    Thank you for your review of the Andrea Camilleri mystery which has prompted me to take out one of the latest novels from the library.
    I’ve recently found your blog, which I much enjoy.

    • Thanks Linda and welcome!
      I’ve only read one Aurelio Zen novel and it didn’t agree with me – but that was years ago and I should try again. My Mum (another Venice addict) has the John Berendt, so I will borrow it sometime – thanks for reminding me of it.

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