Image“No light of daybreak filtered yet into the courtyard of Splendour, the company under government contract to collect trash in the town of Vigàta.”

There are many reasons that I buy books. Sometimes because the cover and the blurb has attracted me. Sometimes because a friend has endorsed them. Sometimes because I already love the author. And other times because they’re on an offer that means I get 100 points on my Waterstone’s loyalty card if I buy it.

Hence, Andrea Camilleri.

Not a name I knew, he adds to my collection this year of reading books that have been translated from European languages. German, Dutch, and now Italian. It’s a crime novel this time, and apparently the first in a series following the Italian version of Poirot or Holmes, one Salvo Montalbano. His methods are a little different to the aforementioned detectives, but nonetheless he gets the job done.

The novel is set in Sicily, and opens with the discovery of the body of an engineer, Silvio Luparello, in a location that is home to trash, drug dealers and prostitutes of every sort. Despite the shady circumstances surrounding this location and the death that has occured there, the coroner states that he died of natural causes (as Camilleri says, “refreshingly unusual for Sicily”). Montalbano is called in to find out what happened, if the causes really were natural, if a particular necklace has been found at the trash site and what famous political lawyer Rizzo has to do with any of it.

The novel is fast-paced and quick to jump from scene to scene, sometimes not giving you enough time to keep up. Of course, the names are all Italian and their similarities can make it difficult for a foolish Englishman like me to be able to differenciate at all times. The plot seems a little hashed together, but it ties up neatly and does make sense. Montalbano is something of a maverick and not above playing god to get the answers he wants. He seems smart, but doesn’t always let you in on how he has made certain deductions, making you wonder if it’s all just smart guesswork.

The book has an amazing use of language (even post-translation) with such wonderful words as “improcrastinable” and evocative phrases like, “Are you going to spit it out or do you need a midwife to pull the words out of your mouth?” It’s all very Italian, with discussions of the Mafia and the crime that seems to infest Sicily (I’ve never been, I’m going on this book), and lots of talks about food and the love of food.

It’s OK as quick reads go, but it doesn’t stand out for me in any particular way. I may return to the series at a later date (Montalbano is certainly a man with a complex life) but I’m sated on my Italian crime for now.