The smell of the night

by Andrea Camilleri

Other authorsStephen Satarelli (Translator)
Paperback, 2005




New York : Penguin Books, 2005.


A "financial wizard," entrusted with the savings of nearly half the retirees of Vigata, mysteriously disappears with the money and a young man who worked for him. In a rather atypical case for Montalbano, the inspector finds himself initially shut out of the investigation by the ever hostile commissioner Bonetti-Alderighi and forced to work from the shadows.

User reviews

LibraryThing member richardderus
The Book Report: Salvo Montalbano and the Vigata police force have a strange case, one that's not their case and not particularly important seeming as the Common Knowledge has already given it an ending: A Ponzi-scheme swindler comes home to Vigata after being away most of his life, seemingly to answer the greediest prayers of the Vigatese by providing huge returns on the investment of their life savings. One fine day, he fails to appear and disburse the income due, and is never seen again. A major investigation by Montalbano's wretchedly political and horrifically petty bosses has led to the conclusion that Mr. Ponzi's follower was offed by the Mafia, either for taking the wrong widow's life savings or plowing fields they felt were their own. After getting involved due to a ludicrous hostage standoff, Montalbano can't help but keep worrying at the threads not in their proper places. In the end, to no one's surprise, the Ponzi schemer is found dead, but not where, or how, anyone could have expected at the beginning of the case.

My Review: I am on record as a fan of the series, and I've given plenty of reasons I feel the books are superior. But one idea has occurred in multiple places and from multiple sources: These books reek, to some, of the corruption and wickedness that mysteries, as distinct from thrillers or noirs, seek to combat. Montalbano doesn't shy away from rule-breaking, he flirts with and even goes far afield with some of the beauteous women Camilleri clearly thinks we all want to read about; his world contains those who aren't morally upright but are valued friends.

Yeah, so? As does your own life, nine bets in ten. Camilleri's character is flawed, and knows this about himself, but he's always motivated by the need to fix things and help people and make the world run right, even if it means breaking rules and going outside the system. I don't sense that this is a problem in other cop-centered series. I have wondered why that seems off-putting in this series.

I think it's because the Mafia is invoked so often, and that makes Americans very tense. It's very much a part of our national conversation even yet, and has entered English as a term of opprobrium for any group or team that's opposed to your own. (I treasure a mention of the Bush Mafia made in Austin's newspaper, later retracted and apologized for. THAT was a good day!)

It's all I can figure, anyway. I am so NOT in love with the current fashion for Scandinavian crime writers that I think I may have reacted histaminically by heading for Sicily. Something more exciting, please, no reserved and tortured souls trying to make amends for their misdeeds, thank you. And as these books don't have revolting, violent depictions of things I don't want to think about (yes, that's Lisbeth in my crosshairs), perhaps the ghoul crowd isn't tempted in. Taste being inarguable, granted, I still wonder at the reason for uninterest or dislike that I've seen mention far more than once.

Guess that's why there'll always be chocolate and vanilla.
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LibraryThing member dboydell
Camilleri writes with a light touch. In these books its not the plot but rather the evocation of place, the characterisation, the love of food that satisfies.
Even the child-like cover design is pleasing. This is the third Inspector Montalbano book that I have read, and they appear to be getting better and better. Stephen Sartarelli, the translator is also a poet, and I think this shows. His four pages of explanatory notes on currency equivalents, literary references etc are helpful as is the authors own afterword on news sources that helped inspire this plot.… (more)
LibraryThing member cameling
I really enjoy the Inspector Montalbano series, and this one doesn't disappoint. I found more humor in this than the other books in the series that I've read.

Inspector Montalbano is called to the scene of a possible hostage situation. An elderly man is holding a secretary at gunpoint until ragioniere Garbano comes back and returns the money he supposedly invested for him. A crowd gathers outside, all angry investors wanting their money back. Needless to say, Garbano scammed them all of their money and disappeared, leaving his secretary to hold down the fort.

While Inspector Montalbano and his team are investigating the missing Garbano, he has the additional aggravation of finding his favorite olive tree cut down to make way for the construction of a house, another missing person, and his Commissioner convinced that he has kidnapped a young boy and stolen some money from a previous case.

A very enjoyable quick read with a surprising finish
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LibraryThing member browner56
Salvo Montalbano, the quick-witted, sardonic police inspector at the center of Andrea Camilleri’s wonderful series of mystery novels, is one of the most appealing and enigmatic heroes in the crime fiction genre. He is always highly principled in his pursuit of justice, but he is not above breaking the rules when there is an end that can be justified by those means. His personal relationships tend to be a bit of mess and he is continually at odds professionally with the officious, hierarchical system in which he must function. He is also a gourmand of the first order; he lives to eat and the food scenes that the author scatters throughout every story are often the moments to savor the most.

The mystery at the heart of “The Smell of the Night” is not terribly involved or unique: A money manager has disappeared with the life savings of a number of elderly residents in a small town and various factions with the police force struggle to solve a case that looks increasingly like a murder investigation. Of course, the details of the plot are never really the point in Camilleri’s books. Set exclusively in Sicily, these stories provide the reader with a fascinating insight into the island’s rugged beauty and the mindset of a people who even other Italians find confusing and sometimes frightening.

Overall, this was quick and enjoyable reading experience. “The Smell of the Night” is sixth book in the series, but only the fifth one that I have read. If my pattern with the first four holds, I probably will not remember much at all about this book in a few weeks. Nevertheless, the journey was well worth the effort—it is always a pleasure to spend a couple of days in Montalbano’s world.
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LibraryThing member Joycepa
6th in the Inspector Montalbano series.

A con artist, Emanuele Gargano, has disappeared with the life savings of half the pensioners in Vigáta. The only person who believes in him is his faithful receptionist, Mariastella, who opens the office very morning and waits by the phone for news from her beloved employer. Meantime, Montalbano and his new boss, Bonetti-Alderighi, continue their relationship, which is just this side of all-out war. Add to that all the usual problems with Vigáta’s more irascible residents, and you have the usual mix for another well-written story in this superb series set in Sicily.

What adds even more to the entertainment value of this series is the unerring sense of authenticity that Camilleri, born and raised in the area in which he sets his novels, gives to the books. His descriptions of both the landscape and the Sicilians themselves ring totally true. Stephen Sartarelli’s outstanding translation preserves the rhythm of Sicilian speech, which adds even more flavor.

The plots are good, and Camilleri knows how to drive to a denouement without losing interest and with a sufficient number of twists to keep the tension at a high level. Characterizations are superb; by this time Fazio, Mimí Augello, and Catarella are old friends, and we sympathize with Livia in her ongoing struggle to deal with her lover Montalbano’s less-than-honest episodes.

As usual, in The Smell of the Night, somehow the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member richardgarside
Great fun, a bit lightweight in the plot, but well written with great Characterisation. Must read more of this author
LibraryThing member bcquinnsmom
"Did you say the smell of the night?"
"Yes. The night changes smells, depending on the hour."

Montalbano's back and once again in his sixth case of the series. This time he gets involved with the case of a missing financial "genius" who had gained the trust of several investors and then promptly disappeared, taking their money with him. Did he go off to "live it up with beautiful half-naked women" in Polynesia, or did Emanuele Gargano take some money off of a very angry and vengeful Mafioso? Nobody knows, although Montalbano's superiors are inclined to believe the latter (as they generally do, even when unfounded), while Montalbano runs his own investigation. But Montalbano is in trouble with the Commissioner over his actions during a previous case, not having to do with the job, but dealing with a boy named Francois first introduced in The Snack Thief. He's also once again in trouble with Livia, Mimi's got a case of pre-wedding jitters, and someone's gone and cut down the old olive tree where he goes to think. Worst of all, he feels the "ignoble head" of old age coming on.

The Smell of the Night offers its readers a solid mystery, a great investigation and one of the most impressive endings of this series so far. As far as the whodunit is concerned, I had absolutely no clue up until the final denouement, which is always a great thing. But as usual, it is the author's finely-honed sense of place that steals the show, along with his devotion to continuing character development, and his introduction of some new and rather quirky people that help Montalbano throughout the case. And let's not forget the food.

As I continue through this series, it's getting a bit difficult to find new things to say about these books, because although some may be a bit better than others, I'm finding that I am loving them all. All the things that make one book good are continued throughout the rest. Perhaps some of the crimes and their solutions aren't as good in one or two of these books as they are in others, but I've come to realize that I'm really reading them at this point just to see what's going to happen next with Montalbano and his colleagues at the Vigata police station. When all is said and done, and I move on to another author's works, I'm probably not going to remember specific crimes in Camilleri's novels, but I'll definitely remember the setting, the food and especially the crazy group of characters surrounding Montalbano.

As with every previous book, I definitely recommend this one, and since I tend to be a series-reading purist, I'd say start with the first book, The Shape of Water and make your way forward so you don't miss anything.
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LibraryThing member P_S_Patrick
This is the first book I have read by this author, and I was fairly impressed. There was a good balance of suspense, mystery, wit, and humour, which made the book interesting. It is set in Italy, and the author does a good job of giving the reader a taste of Italian life and culture. It is a relatively short book compared to the lenghts of novels I am used to reading, with the text on the pages also being of no considerable density, so I had it read in less than a day. It is part of a series though, so I will be seeking out additional books to follow the other cases for Inspector Montalbano.… (more)
LibraryThing member lkernagh
Okay, so it took me six episodes to figure out what I love about the Inspector Montalbano series. The characters. It is all about the characters. Camilleri creates such fun, vibrant, leap off the pages and into your home kind of characters. Okay.... maybe not into your home, but you know what I mean. Of course, the icing on the cake for me is that all of the audiobooks I have listened to have been read by Grover Gardner who does an absolutely fabulous job with his character shifts. The Smell of the Night brings a lot of the best of the previous books to the forefront - Montelbano's relationship with Livia, the angst that has suddenly become Mimi's life, the melodrama that is Cat, the frustration of poor Fazio and even better, we get to fully see what a total jerk Montalbano, by his own admission, can be. Not sure I approve of the antics and tactics of Montalbano but it does make for entertaining reading. I also love how Camilleri gives the reader the unexpected. I can never predict where the Inspector Montalbano stories will go..... I am just along for the ride.… (more)
LibraryThing member cathyskye
First Line: The shutter outside the wide-open window slammed so hard against the wall that it sounded like a gunshot.

When Emanuele Gargano, owner of King Midas Associates, disappears after bilking millions of lire from people in a pyramid scheme, it's up to Inspector Salvo Montalbano to get to the bottom of it all. As with most of the books in this delightful series, the fun is in tagging along with the inspector while he uses both official and unofficial channels to test his theories. In between lavish meals at home and in local Sicilian restaurants, Montalbano thinks nothing of thumbing his nose at his superiors, badgering his own officers, and wheedling information from any promising source.

After momentarily getting off on the wrong foot when reading the first book in the series, I've grown to appreciate and to enjoy this wily inspector who has no patience for cliches or stupidity. (I've also learned not to read any of these books when I'm hungry!)

Normally I don't go out of my way to mention translators unless something strikes me as being awkward or not quite right, but in this case I have to mention Stephen Sartarelli. Somehow, some way, he manages to translate colloquial Sicilian into excellent English prose-- while still retaining a feel for the original idiom. That cannot be easy, but he certainly makes it seem as if it is.

Wonderful characterizations, a very strong sense of place, mouth-watering meals for foodies, sly humor and perfectly paced plots have made this series one that I highly recommend to anyone looking for an excellent mystery series to read.
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LibraryThing member jtck121166
On the basis of this novel, I'm highly suspicious about the success of this series. Other reviewers have commented on the feebleness of the mystery at its heart, but I'm not too bothered about that; a manhunt for a corrupt financier is perfectly valid, and could make (indeed elsewhere already has made) for an exciting and satisfying crime thriller.

No, the problem with this is the mood. It's not exactly comic, but can't possibly be serious, either. The humour (whimsy?) is now leaden, now ill timed, now in poor taste, and all quite undermined by a translation in which one can have no faith: bizarre spelling to denote a character's uneducated accent can be acceptable, but not in written notes by such characters; nobody in the English-speaking world refers to Marx's book by the title 'Capital' etc. A note tells us that the translator lives in France.

I think I read The Shape of Water years ago and liked it; I've enjoyed the Italian TV movies; but I found this close to unreadable. I won't be returning to Sicily with Montalbano for a long time. If you're a fan, maybe you can make the case that this one's just a dud?
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LibraryThing member tututhefirst
Salvo Montalbano is faced with a financial crime and a missing person. An investment guru has evidently milked hundreds of people out of their life savings, failed to pay them their expected dividends and absconded with the money. Is is a Ponzi scheme gone seriously awry? The only person who believes in his innocence is his secretary MariaStella. Two prevailing theories abound surrounding the accountant's disappearance: he ran away and is now living the high life on a beach on some far off island paradise, or he somehow failed to pay the expected dividends to some higher up in the Mafia and is now feeding the fish in the Mediterranean Sea to atone for his transgressions. Montalbano's superiors are ready to blame this on the Mafia and move on. Salvo has a few too many unanswered questions to let it go, and sets off to find the answer. The ending to this one is well-written and definitely a true shocker.… (more)
LibraryThing member Ma_Washigeri
A slim volume, read in an afternoon in the garden, watching the bees on the lavender. Really not sure about the translation.... reads like the subtitles on the TV series. I did wonder whether the book or the TV came first. Both have a warm bath sort of feel but this book is a bit darker somehow with Montelbano more of an oddball maverick than he is allowed to be on TV.… (more)
LibraryThing member FAR2MANYBOOKS
First, my compliments to Stephen Sartarelli on his translation and notes compiled for the reader to understand every nuance of Camilleri's written word.
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. (less)… (more)
LibraryThing member Ma_Washigeri
A slim volume, read in an afternoon in the garden, watching the bees on the lavender. Really not sure about the translation.... reads like the subtitles on the TV series. I did wonder whether the book or the TV came first. Both have a warm bath sort of feel but this book is a bit darker somehow with Montelbano more of an oddball maverick than he is allowed to be on TV.… (more)
LibraryThing member thornton37814
Montalbano investigates the disappearance of a man who ran off with a lot of people's money and his sidekick in this installment. The detective finds himself in the plot of a William Faulkner short story. Overall I found this installment less enjoyable than many in the series even though I enjoy literary play. I continue to enjoy Grover Gardner's wonderful narration of the series.… (more)
LibraryThing member barlow304
Another delightful installment of the adventures of Inspector Montalbano, the chief detective of a small town in Sicily. As always with this series, Sicily is itself something of a character in this novel, the landscape, the sea, and most of all the food.

Camilleri incorporates, however, a very modern crime into the plot: a Ponzi scheme. How the detective tracks down the perpetrators and how justice of a kind is served form the heart of the story.

Strongly recommended for lovers of Italy or of place-centered mysteries.
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LibraryThing member mysterymax
A fast talking financial con man has disappeared with the savings of many people in Montalbano's town. A witness during the investigation tells Montalbano that he knows the time without wearing a watch. During the day he uses the sun, and during the night he goes by the smell. The night changes smells, depending on the hour.… (more)
LibraryThing member jetangen4571
family-dynamics, friendship, fraud, law-enforcement, Sicily, sardonic
Read 2 times. Last read October 28, 2020.

Come for the characters, get hooked by the mystery and the antics of Montalbano. He begins with the disappearance of a swindler but then the politicos shut him down. They think. Can't put a flawed hero down, however, so on goes the tale to a sad conclusion.
Grover Gardner, narrator, has this series down to a science!
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
This sixth entry in the Inspector Montalbano series was the perfect beach book for me! The book drew me in and captured my attention despite the distractions of the sun, sand and kids & I finished it the same day I started.

I won't say anything about the mystery (which was as good as usual with this series) but a quick comment about Montalbano's personal life -- I was glad to see that he and Francisco have established a good relationship after the trouble which occurred a few books back. Now I hope that a similar improvement happens with Livia...… (more)
LibraryThing member nmele
What can I say other than that this is another enjoyable mystery in this series? Funny, engaging, all that. Camilleri has written a kind of meta-fiction here, incorporating self-conscious characters, television screenplays and a Faulkner short story.


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