In his fourth mystery to feature Inspector Salvo Montalbano, Camilleri once again thrills with his fluid storytelling and quirky characters. Montalbano's gruesome discovery of a lovely, naked young woman suffocated in her bed immediately sets him on a search for her killer. Among the suspects are her ageing husband (a famous doctor); a shy admirer, now disappeared; an antiques-dealing lover from Bologna; and the victim's friend Anna, whose charms Montalbano cannot help but appreciate. But it is a mysterious, reclusive violinist who holds the key to this murder?.
His personal life, meanwhile, takes its customary back seat...but with more-than-usually severe consequences, ones that make the ending of the previous book look very unlikely to come to fruition. The resolution of this story line is surprising, but in line with Camilleri's evolving character portrait of Montalbano.
My Review: As always, Camilleri makes me drool, moan, and breathe deeply with his Sicilian cuisine and atmosphere evocation. I want to go there now, and stay there, and follow Montalbano around saying "I'll have what he's having" to everyone I meet. But there are lots of emotional roadblocks in Montalbano's world, and there are a lot of points where he seems hell-bent for leather to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That he, in the end, decides to do the things that are true to his character in the last ~40pp is a testament to how clear Camilleri's vision of him is. And I would like to offer, with grateful hugs and awestruck genuflections, praise unstinting to the translator of the series: Stephen Sartarelli, apparently a published poet in his own right. He's deft, he's witty, he's thorough, and he's got something I've seldom encountered: a submersible ego. His translation, I am reliably informed by an ex-pat family member who's been reading the gialli as they come out in Italy, is tonally spot-on to Camilleri's original language.
Don't read the series out of order, too much subtle and delicious detail is lost that way. But really, really wise and discerning fiction readers will read the series.
The beauty of this book, as with the entire series is HOW the circumstances jerked it back into place. All is not what it appears, that is the mantra of most mystery novels, none more so than the Inspector Montalbano series. Because Camilleri is juggling many balls at once. he is making social and political comementaries on the state of Italian and Sicilian politics and cultrue, he is talking about food, and the proper appreciation of food. he is also making judgement calls on relationships between people, whether it is between men and women or everyday dealings, he has a lot to say. But this isn't a series about third person reveries on the esoteric subject of human relations, the protagonist is not sitting on some exalted throne, making sniggly and cowardly observations. The protagonist is in the middle of the fight between right and wrong while also living in a world suffused with grey moral tonalities. It is, as I had said before, extremely Italian, where justification is often demanded but the circumstances will always diffuse the response into meanginglessness.
Montalbano and Gallo are on their way to a funeral. Thanks to Gallo’s mania for speed, they inadvertently crash into a parked car, causing extensive damage to both cars. Still, the police car can move, and they proceed to the funeral after Montalbano conscientiously leaves a note with his name and phone number under the windshield wiper of the other car. But when they return, there is no sign that the owner has even been near the car.
Suspicious, Montalbano makes a midnight reconnaissance of the house in front of which the car is parked, and finds a beautiful naked woman who has been murdered by suffocation. Naturally, he can not report the crime, since he is in the house illegally, but ever ingenious, he calls on a friend, an old woman with whom he has worked before, to make an anonymous phone call to the police.
The old police commissioner, a friend of Montalbano’s, has retired, and a new one who has absolutely no use for Montalbano (the feeling is mutual) and his idiosyncratic ways, removes him from the case and puts it in the hands of an arrogant publicity seeker—with disastrous results.
To make life even more bizarre, Catarella is selected to attend computer school to the cynical amusement of all hands. Except that strange things happen in that arena as well.
This is pure Montalbano in the hands of that master craftsman, Camilleri, and has all the elements that so delighted in the earlier books: humor, well-drawn characters over the entire spectrum of recurring and non-recurring, it-can-only-happen-in-Sicily ambiance, good plotting, and more food to die for. You can’t lose with this series.
Some say that the pace of the book is slow, but, I enjoyed this differing flavor on a detective novel. Camilleri is able to immerse us in the world of Inspector Montalbano: his love and enjoyment of mediterranean food coupled with a detailed description of the sea and the warm and rocky Sicilian geography. With a mix of humor, cynicism, compassion, and love of good food, Montalbano goes into battle against the powerful and the corrupt who are determined to block his path. This is a"delicious" discovery for mystery afficionados and fiction lovers.
The Voice of the Violin is number 4 in the Commisario Montalbano series of books, and number 2 of the tv show.
On the way to a funeral, Montalbano and Gallo end up in a crash due to Gallo's speeding, hitting a stationary car on the side of the road. They don't know who owns parked car or house. Following a visit to the hospital, the pair drive back past the house and see the car still sitting there untouched.
Mimi puts Caterella forward for an IT course, which means Caterella is not there for most of the episode, which can be a good thing, as his form of slapstick delivery can get annoying if played too much. Salvo and Livia argue about their wedding and fostering of François . Mimi is off on another case, which means that Salvo doesn't get to talk things out with him much, either about the case or Livia.
Salvo visits the house where they had the crash, and breaks in, finding the naked body of a dead woman in a large room (in the book, the body is face down in the bedroom). He returns to visit an elderly lady from the previous episode, Clementina Vasile Cozzo, and gets her to make an anonymous phone call reporting the dead body. Whilst there he meets the old man Barbera from upstairs who is a violinist.
The team visits the house again, formally this time, but because of the location, it's not their usual forensics team who turn up. Fazio twigs that Salvo has been there before and checks that he wore gloves. The dead woman is Michela, who is/was married to a much older, rich man called Licalzi who knows she has at least one lover: Serravalle, an antiques seller in Bologna. The Licalzi live elsewhere and she is down to convert the villa, maybe into a hotel.
In investigating her time in Vigata, Montalbano finds her friend Anna, who tells Salvo that Michaela had been stalked by Maurizio di Blasi, a mentally deficient 31-year-old.
On the personal front, François has chosen to stay with Franca and her family and is worried that Salvo is going to take him away. Livia is not happy when told and claims it is because Salvo doesn't want to be a father, so they have another argument.....
Salvo is taken off the case by the commissioner he doesn't like, and that combined with François makes him grumpy. di Blasi gets arrested by the flying squad only to be killed in the following shootout. With di Blasi dead, Salvo decides to resume the investigation. He hears that the mafia have a witness that claims it didn't go down as described, and the suspected hand grenade was in fact di Blasi's shoe.
Salvo visits Panzacchi, captain of flying squad with a video showing that di Blasi wasn't carrying a grenade. He tells Panzacchi to sort it out as it will bring down Commissioner and the local Judge if the video gets out. The following day Panzacchi resigns and Salvo is back on the case. Fazio and Mimi know there's more going on they don't know about, and Galluzzo puts his foot in it by trying to celebrate.
Anna says she saw Michaela with an older man she remembered was a violinist but Michaela didn't want to talk about it further. He asks her some further questions, she's disappointed when he doesn't make a pass. Realising that the situation is not about sex or love, Salvo goes looking for the money and in going through her papers Salvo realises she's been fiddling her expenses
Livia pops round, having been to see François , and had been persuaded to talk to Salvo by Mimi, as they have become friends. She's upset but coming to terms that François doesn't want to leave Franca and her husband and the situation is not really Salvo's fault.
Salvo visits maestro Barbera (the violinist he met previously) who confirms he knew Michela and that she had asked him to get a certain violin certified and he had lent her one in return, however not the one that was found in the house when she died. Salvo then begins to piece things together so following the funeral, Salvo visits Serravalle in his hotel suite, puts forward his theory that Serravalle is heavily in debt due to gambling and Michela had been helping him. In desperation, he decides to kill her and steal the violin, not knowing it was the replacement and therefore practically valueless.
Serravalle points out impossible to prove but realises that being arrested by the police is better of two bad options. Salvo lets him go off on his own to pack his bag, only for a gunshot to ring out....
I read the book after watching the episode several times. The show runs very close to the book, with just a few scenes that are different - e.g. where the body is found, that Salvo calls Caterella "Cat", and Caterella's inability to talk properly is made clear.
Montalbano is in fine form as he bends and shapes the rules to suit him in his investigation. There is also a sidestory that explore the Inspector’s life away from police work, and resolves a plot that was carried over from his previous book, The Snack Thief. In a series that is full of excellent characters, Montalbano is unique. He manages to be three steps ahead of his opposition, deals with political fallout, keeps his underlings in line yet still takes time to savour life, romance and food. I am looking forward to the next book.
In this fourth book in the series, Montalbano’s flaws have become familiar. He is irritable, short-tempered, he’ll lie when it’s more convenient than the truth, and he is quicker to insult his subordinates than to compliment them. His strengths are also familiar. He is loyal, compassionate, and tenacious in his pursuit of the truth. He will not let a case rest until he is certain that he’s found the real culprit. The Sicilian scenery and local cuisine provide an appealing backdrop for this series.