Sicilian police inspector Montalbano returns in this collection of eight short cases.
The question posed by this volume is whether Montalbano's abbreviated adventures are as satisfying as the full-length ones in Camilleri's novels (The Sacco Gang, 2018, etc.), and the answer is not quite. But only in the sense that a fully satisfying meal leaves more of an impression than a wonderful snack. The metaphor is apt, because food ranks just after work and just ahead of love in the triumvirate that keeps the inspector going. Love is represented here, as in all the books, by the inspector's girlfriend, Livia, their relationship a series of squabbles and makeups that are indicative of nothing so much as the interactions of two brainy people, neither of whom suffers fools gladly. Food is, always, the sacred respite Montalbano takes at his usual lunchtime trattoria and, later, at home with whatever delicacy his housekeeper, Adelina, has left in the oven. The cases, mostly disappearances and murders, or disappearances that turn into murders, are all diverting. But what matters about the Montalbano books is the inspector himself, an earthy, cunning companion, open to delight and affection, his grumpiness the reaction of a decent man to how often his fellow human beings fall short of decency. Longtime readers of the series take his deductive powers as a given. They are, though, more apt to see the essence of the man when, after dinner, he takes to the veranda of his little house by the sea and sits looking at the water in twilight, smoking, sipping whisky, usually working out a problem but more often than not just being, and inviting the reader to share this quiet pleasure.
This is a fine introduction for newcomers to Camilleri's work and, for the dedicated, eight examples of why Inspector Montalbano is so beloved.