Rounding the mark

by Andrea Camilleri

Other authorsStephen Sartarelli (Translator)
Paperback, 2006




New York : Penguin Books, 2006.


While swimming along the Sicilian shore, Inspector Montalbano discovers a corpse. His pursuit of the cause of death intersects with the inquiry into a hit-and-run accident that claimed the life of a young boy who may have been victimized by human traffickers. The buying and selling of immigrant children, for slave labor, sex, and as a source of illegal organ transplants, is part of the evil underside of the opening of Europe's borders. That, combined with frustration with his department's repressive handling of security for the G-8 summit in Genoa and the corruption among his superiors and the politicians behind them, makes setting anything right seem like an exercise in futility. Montalbano alternates between despair and steely resolve. When he realizes that he may have inadvertently aided the boy's victimizers, his internal turmoil intensifies.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member richardderus
The Book Report: Montalbano, over fifty and not liking it One Little Bit, decides to take an early-morning, out-of-season swim...and runs smack-dab into a dead guy who's clearly been in the water for a long time. He improvises a tow rope out of his swimsuit for the poor bastard, and begins a long, tiring naked swim in the cold water to bring him to shore. He's exhausted and feeling very lightheaded after his exertions and collapses on the sand...where he is attacked and vilified by a crazy old couple from the North who're renting a neighbor's house, photographed au naturel by the paparazzi they've summoned, and generally made a figure of fun...fifty yards from his own home. Thus begins Montalbano's misadventure into the seamiest-yet part of Sicily's underbelly. The dead guy proves to be a murder victim, identified in an extremely surprising way by an extremely unexpected source; Montalbano's interference into an illegal-immigrant bust results in the death of a young child; and in the end, both are revealed to be major pieces in a puzzle that bedevils Italy, with its immense amounts of coastline and huge population of coastal islands, most among European nations: How can you prevent a flood-tide of economic migrants from sheltering the vilest, most despicable members of our species from profiting off the misery of their masses? True to life itself, the question is posed, the answer left unknown. But Montalbano, now, he solves his piece of the puzzle, and a few...not many, just a few...of the scumbags meet a just end.

My Review: Well, in the sixth book of the series, there is a bit of sagging to report: A few promising threads are left dangling here, especially the whole North-vs-South cultural divide so present in every facet of Italian life. Camilleri fails to exploit some delightful possibilities, and I think that it's inevitable to do so in a long-for-him book crammed with major plot points and huge moral questions. Part of the charm of these books is their conciseness: seldom over 230pp in translation, they are models of taut storytelling. Then along comes a story like this one, replete with opportunities to explore Italy and Italianness, and it's too much for the format of the series. It's unwise to change formats mid-series, so some things will fall off the radar a little too quickly.

Well, you still give the book four stars...what's that about, fanboy? asks a sarcastic member of the public. Not just about being a fanboy, though I admit that I am just that. It's about the layers of well-executed prose, conveying piece by piece the existence of and resolution to a problem previously hidden, in concert with a storyteller's greatest gift or lack: The ability to create, in a few deft verbal strokes, a sense of a character as a real person. The ability to evoke in the reader a new response to an old situation. The ability to bring a place to life using nothing more than a few lighting effects and your own sense of smell.

These qualities, mes vieux, are amply on display in this book and deployed in service of a story that, even though it's resolved, isn't in any way over. And that should keep you awake nights.
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LibraryThing member cathyskye
First Line: Stinking, treacherous night.

Salvo Montalbano is going through a rough patch at work. He wants to quit, even though he loves his job. One night he can't sleep and since he lives right on the beach, he goes for a swim. Unfortunately he bumps into a dead body while he's out there and has to haul it back to shore. In his quest for the cause of death, Montalbano realizes that this death coincides with the hit-and-run death of a young boy who may have been victimized by human traffickers. When Montalbano realizes that he may have inadvertently helped the boy's abusers, he is sickened and even more determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.

This (and the entire series) is far from a run-of-the-mill police procedural. There aren't many authors like Camilleri who can turn a creepy scene like finding a badly decomposed body at sea into a scene that can make a reader laugh out loud. (I refuse to tell you how. That should be part of your fun.)

The ingredients that make this series so special are Camilleri's gallows humor and his cast of characters-- Montalbano's "soldiers". They are a wonderful bunch of very different personalities, and even though they may drive each other to distraction on a regular basis, I don't think they'd want to work with anyone else-- especially when they have a boss who allows them to tell him when he's being the southbound end of a northbound horse.

The characterizations are brilliant; there is such a sense of Sicily as you read; the humor is often laugh-out-loud funny; and there are the unexpected jewels. Rounding the Mark had one of those gems: the grouchy Montalbano being genuinely heartbroken at being an unknowing accomplice in that young boy's death can bring a tear to the eye.

In roughly 250 pages, Camilleri can deliver a masterful piece of work that many other authors would take 400 pages to accomplish. Each book is a gem, and I intend to savor every single one.

For any of you who may be hesitant to read a translated book, don't be. Sartarelli has won awards for his translations, and those awards are deserved. He manages to imply dialects in a way that isn't confusing, and for anyone who needs a little extra information, the back of each book contains a few pages of notes that deal with any historical references, language, food, and previous books in the series.

If at all possible, this is one mystery series that you should sample. If I had four thumbs, they'd all be pointing at the sky. (I'm sure Camilleri would have something pithy to say about that....)
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LibraryThing member thornton37814
This may be my least favorite in the Montalbano series to date. Inspector Montalbano discovers a corpse while swimming. It ends up being about a small boy Montalbano encounters who is later murdered. He investigates on the side without authorization and without letting his superiors or his team know what he's up to. In fact, Fazio comes across as a more competent detective than Montalbano in many ways for without him and Mimi, there would not have been a next installment in the series. Grover Gardner's narration was excellent, as usual, but the ending of this one felt a bit abrupt as I listened.… (more)
LibraryThing member Bruce_McNair
An Inspector Montalbano mystery - from the series on which the TV series is based. Montalbano goes swimming and bumps into a floating dead man. So starts a mystery involving illegal migration and child trafficking. The characterisation is good with a comical vein. I enjoyed this story more than any of the TV series.
LibraryThing member bcquinnsmom
Continuing the Salvo Montalbano series in order, Rounding the Mark is number seven, leaving me six more to go. Five if you don't count the newest one, The Potter's Field, which won't get here until September.

It's not a good night for Montalbano. He is unable to sleep, and even more telling, unable to eat. He's decided to turn in his resignation, feeling betrayed by the news about a raid on the Diaz School in Genoa during the G8 meetings there, in which evidence had been found to be planted, the stabbing of a policeman by an "antiglobalist" had been discovered to have been self inflicted, and that ultimately there was no legitimate reason that the raid needed to have taken place. As he often does when he's restless, he decides to take a naked swim in the ocean in the early morning hours. As he turns on his back and does a stroke, he bumps into something that turns out to be a foot. He apologizes to the unseen person, only to discover that it is really a corpse.

Some days later, he goes to deliver a pair of glasses to a cop friend at the scene of the landing of illegal immigrants, when a little boy runs off the boat and away from everyone. Montalbano goes after him, captures him and delivers him to his mother. But he can't help but notice that the boy looks petrified and is highly agitated. After some time, the boy's body is later discovered -- someone has hit him with a car and killed him. Wondering if perhaps his own actions were linked to the boy's death, he begins investigating and will not let up until he finds out the truth.

Despite Montalbano's disgust at his government, the corrupt policemen and his ongoing battle with what he feels might be old age creeping up on him, there are some really funny episodes that made me laugh out loud. First, Salvo's naked "rescue" of the corpse is caught on television. Then there's an ongoing gag about a cop named Torretta, who seems to have opened an "emporium" in the station, always ready with anything that anyone could possibly need. Catarella's mangling of Italian leads Montalbano to a vital clue through someone Catarella insists is named Pontius Pilate. But there is nothing funny at all about the way Camilleri depicts an ongoing and growing problem in Italy, one that is shared by many countries around the world.

Here we find Montalbano at his most intense so far, and although the overall mystery wasn't as satisfying as it might have been, it was still quite good; it is yet another excellent entry in the series. Camilleri's regular characters are so well developed and well portrayed that I feel like I know these people well by this point, yet I'm always surprised by the twists and turns in Montalbano's life. Even though at times these books become formulaic and often rely on odd coincidences, and although these traits are not ones I particularly care for in any mystery or crime fiction novel, Camilleri's writing keeps me reading. It's easy to overlook the flaws because I'm having such a great time reading.
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LibraryThing member ffortsa
Maybe I was too sleepy. Or maybe I've been reading too many mystery stories. (is that possible?) Whatever the reason, this Montalbano mystery didn't capture me the way the previous titles had. The usual cases that come together at the end, the usual accidents, the usual intimations that Montalbano is getting older. But it wasn't as appealing as usual.… (more)
LibraryThing member Condorena
Camilleri's Montalbano wants to retire when it gets into the news that top policemen have become corrupt because he takes it personally and it shames him, but he finds he still has very important work to do and miles to go before he can sleep.
LibraryThing member lkernagh
This was a more or less average story in the Inspector Montalbano series. The crimes that are the topic of this story - human trafficking - are reprehensible, for sure, but as with previous Montalbano stories, the crimes are only part of the story. This time, the personal Montablano focus is his disillusionment with his job. Montalbano predominantly runs his own solo investigations, relegating his work colleagues to the ranks of 'out of the loop' disgruntled secondary characters. Even Livia only receives minor attention. Thankfully, Ingrid in the picture or this would have been a bit of a downer of story for me. On the bright side, Camilleri introduces a new character, adding some levity to the story: a police officer - who's name escapes me as I write this review - who seems to have a goods emporium within easy reach of his desk. Apparently he has one of everything Montalbano seems to be in need of, from eye glasses to hip-wading boots!… (more)
LibraryThing member leslie.98
Due to the hectic holiday season, I decided to listen to this mystery even though I own the paperback. This way I could 'read' it while wrapping gifts, baking cookies etc. Grover Gardner is becoming one of my favorite narrators & he didn't disappoint in this Italian mystery. However, I did miss the endnotes (footnotes?) that the translator Stephen Sartarelli includes in the print copy. In fact, I checked in regularly with my paperback to read them!

So while this is a successful audiobook, I think that this is a series I will mostly read in print.
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LibraryThing member tulikangaroo
Of course, this book begins with a corpse. It's swimming this time, and turns out to have something in with a little boy running away from a boatload of refugees that have landed on Sicily's shores. Camilleri uses this novel to highlight the tragic business of human trafficking in the Mediterranean, and is, in my opinion, the most engaging and touching Montalbano novel.… (more)
LibraryThing member smik
This novel is a strange mixture of the humorous and the serious. The serious comes from two themes: corruption in the Italian police force particularly at the upper levels, and the increasing trade in human trafficking. At least twice, in the face of his inability to stop the growth in either of these two issues, Montalbano reaches a point of resignation.

He takes delight in small victories though like the solving of mysteries such as identity of the floating corpse that he bumps into on his morning swim. The humour is bound up in Montalbano's personality and the actions he takes such as his decision to tow the corpse to shore using his own swimming trunks, and his tendency to neigh like a horse when he is delighted.

Montalbano comes through as an intuitive detective seeing patterns and connections where others don't, and possessing an ability to replay and freeze-frame events in his own mind, looking for things that don't fit.

The narration by Grover Gardner took some getting used to. He used a variety of Bronx intonations for members of Montalbano's team. It was almost enough to put me off right at the beginning.
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LibraryThing member Joycepa
7th in the Inspector Montalbano series.

Just after the G8 meeting in Genoa, where the right-wing government of Berlusconi has at a minimum countenanced unprovoked and unjustified attacks by police on protesters, Montalbanois filled with disgust at what Italy has become in general and how the Genoan police have betrayed their mandate to serve and protect the people in particular. He is not sure whether or not he wants to continue in his profession; he seriously considers resigning.

In the midst of this angst, taking his usual swim, he accidentally and literally bumps into a corpse. (This scene deserves mention in that it is absolutely hilarious, a wonderful example of Camilleri’s wit and sense of the ridiculous that so enlivens these books.) Examination of the body reveals that while the man died by drowning, he definitely had help in his passing.

In a separate and seemingly unrelated incident, a boat filled with illegal immigrants from Africa is rounded up by the Italian Coast Guard and herded into Vigáta. A young boy escapes, runs down the dock, eluding pursuers, and hides. Montalbano, thinking that the boy is frightened and wanting to restore him to his mother, manages to quietly talk the boy into coming out of hiding and returning with him. But shortly after, the boy is killed in on the road in what is clearly not an accident. Much disturbed, Montalbano tries to solve the case of the murdered man on the one hand, and continues to puzzle over and mourn the death of the young boy on the other.

This is the context for what is one of the best installments in this utterly superb series set in Sicily. All of Camilleri’s great strengths are here: taut writing, authenticity, excellent dialogue lovingly preserved by Sartarelli’s translation, and both recurring and non-recurring sets of very strong, believable characters. In addition, this is one of Camilleri’s more disturbing plots, addressing as it does the trafficking in illegal aliens, especially young children, for utterly cold-blooded purposes. Camilleri knows how to drive a plot, and this book is no exception, racing along to a highly dramatic denouement.

Highly recommended.
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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 laytonwoman3rd
While contemplating handing in his resignation, Inspector Montalbano gets involved with two unofficial investigations that don't seem to interest the Powers That Be in Montelusa. He puts himself in considerable emotional and physical peril, especially once he determines that there is a connection between the drifting dead body he discovered while swimming in the sea, and the unfortunate young "non-European" boy he encountered briefly in the port of Vigata. This one is a bit grim and portentous, I think. But since I know there are several more entries in the series, I must presume that our Inspector survives the physical ordeal, as well as the likely official uproar that one would expect to follow if there had been one more chapter here.
Review written in May 2013
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LibraryThing member Andrew-theQM
Inspector Montalbano is reaching a crisis in his career and due to the actions of others is intending to resign. Amongst these events whilst out for one of his swims he comes across a body. Although written a good few years ago this book is quite topical due to its references to the refugee crisis in Europe. The usual good humour, quirkiness of Inspector Montalbano and other characters are prevalent throughout the book. Another excellent read!… (more)
LibraryThing member jetangen4571
Sicily, law-enforcement, human-trafficking, humor

It begins with Montalbano finding a corpse in the water near his home and being filmed naked by local TV, then alarming criminal behavior by higher ups in law enforcement is publicized, and progresses to what starts out as a small mystery about a young boy. Montalbano is disheartened by the police scandal and plots to retire, but then the small boy is murdered. The rest of the story is just as fascinating yet also balanced with humor. Another winner!
Steven Sartorelli is the deviously clever translator, and Grover Gardner is the narrator extraordinary.
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LibraryThing member Auntie-Nanuuq
Inspector Salvo Montalbano likes to swim a distance when needing to clear his thoughts....

In the midst of working out the details of why a migrant child would be running away from his "mother" and the mother's subsequent fake broken leg & running out of ER only to be picked-up by a passing motorist... Montalbano swims farther than usual and comes across the remains of a corpse, which he ties to himself via his swimsuit & tows back to shore.

Montalbano's staff works hard to reconstruct the face of the corpse and in doing so is told that the corpse could not have possibly have died twice; but thanks to Ingrid a positive ID is made, which leads Montalbano back to the boy & to the area in the ocean where he came across the corpse.

Below the cliffs of illegally built fortress-mansions, Montalbano discovers a hidden jetty & cave entrance... All leading to the illegal trafficking of children.

This was a very good story, with twists, turns, & humor... The humanitarianism of Montalbano is refreshing.
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LibraryThing member quondame
I don't enjoy having to worry about Inspector Montalbano's health, and the mystery element was too diffuse and dependent on co-incidence to be as convincing as it was heartbreaking.
LibraryThing member barlow304
Yet again, Andrea Camilleri hits the bullseye with Inspector Montalbano. In this case, poor Montalbano is down in the dumps, determined to resign as he no longer respects the Italian justice system. But chance encounters draw him into two mysteries: a body floating off his beloved beach and a small refugee boy who wants to run away.

Featuring his trademark humor, Camilleri weaves these two strands together as Montalbano's sense of justice sweeps away his doldrums. As usual, the book is full of humor from the way Catarella mangles logic, language and names to Montalbano's obsession with a really good lunch. Although I cannot read Cavalleri in the original (too much dialect), Stephen Sartarelli's translation captures both the humor and the horror of the situations Montalbano finds himself in.

Want to escape the pandemic? Go to beautiful Sicily with Camilleri and his Inspector Montalbano.
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LibraryThing member mysterymax
One of the funniest scenes in the series : Montalbano swimming encounters a floating body. To get it to shore he removes his swimming trunks and uses them as a tow rope. When he gets to shore, nude, he's met by an elderly couple who thinks he's killed the man, and a press photographer. The headlines the next day, accompanying the photo reads "Inspector Montalbano (in the photo) saving a dead man."… (more)
LibraryThing member leslie.98
Once again I found myself flying through an Inspector Montalbano mystery. Camilleri manages to get the perfect blend of mystery, social commentary and personal life in these books. I love the way Montalbano eats & the loving care Camilleri puts into the descriptions of the food! But even better is that in each of these mysteries, I learn something about Sicily & Italy in general with the help of the marvellous endnotes by translator Stephen Sartarelli. I look forward to continuing this series.

In this entry, Camilleri tackles an issue that is upsetting to both Montalbano & myself: illegal smuggling of young children into the country. While some of these children are being reunited with one or both parents already present illegally in Italy, most of them are sadly brought over for less savory reasons. Montalbano gets involved with this situation when he helps retrieve a young boy whom he thinks is running away from his mother. A day or two later, the boy is found dead. Montalbano feels compelled to investigate even though it happened outside his jurisdiction.
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