I’m new to Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series of books. The Age of Doubt is number 14 so I have a lot of catching up to do. A bit of research on Andrea Camilleri showed me that he (yes, Andrea is a man not a woman) is now 87 years old and wrote his first Montalbano book in 1994, The Shape of Water.
In The Age of Doubt we find Inspector Montalbano dealing with a badly disfigured body found at sea and brought into Vigàta harbour by a large luxury yacht owned by the mysterious Livia Giovannini.
The book opens with Montalbano having a chance encounter in a traffic jam with a strange young woman who he rescues when her car is on the verge of tipping over into a flooded channel. He takes her back to the police station while she waits to have her car recovered and hears that she is heading out to meet the very yacht which has brought in the body.
Before long, Montalbano finds himself deeply involved in investigating the phenomenally wealthy yacht owner and her crew. Is the body linked to them in some way? Why does the yacht spend so much time at sea, travelling around Africa and Europe? Why has the woman he rescued from the car now disappeared?
On the way, Montalbano finds himself dealing with a beautiful young harbour official, Lieutenant Belladonna. As he works with her to solve the mystery of the yacht he finds that they are getting on remarkably well together –
They smoked their cigarettes together. She said her name was Laura. And since they hit it off well, they each smoked a second cigarette while telling each other a few things about themselves. When they said goodbye, it was clear that they would have liked to smoke another ten cigarettes together.
Although he has now reached an age when encounters like this should not trouble him, Salvo finds himself becoming besotted with the glamorous Belladonna and soon becomes embroiled in one of the most painful relationships of his career.
Andrea Camilleri is known for putting fragments of social commentary into his novels, (see article “Andrea Camilleri – a Life in Writing” in The Guardian) and in The Age of Doubt, this takes the form of Montalbano’s disgust at the treatment of illegal immigrants as they arrive in the port on over-crowded and broken-down boats. By the way, the article above would be a worthwhile read if you feel that detective novels are a lesser form of fiction, showing as it does Camilleri’s intellectual basis for his work.
This book is a sheer pleasure to read. It is fast and pacey, full of local colour, and is an example of what police procedurals should be. You have an interesting, fully human detective with all his good and bad points on display, a cast of colourful support characters, an intriguing mystery and some fantastic locations on the island of Sicily. I rate it highly and now look forward to reading earlier novels in the series so I can fill in the gaps in Montalbano’s back story.
Incidentally, the town of Vagàta is based on the Sicilian town of Porto Empedocle. I am sorry to have missed the television series based on these books where part of Salvo Montalbano is played by Luca Zingaretti.
This is my last book review before Christmas. I am planning to redesign this website over the next couple of weeks so the look and feel of it may be changing from time to time as I experiment with new layouts. The content will remain the same.