Book Review: August Heat by Andrea Camilleri

August Heat

This was my first encounter with Inspector Montalbana, the character on which a whole series of books collectively known as the Inspector Montalbana mysteries are based.  The books are written by Andrea Camilleri, one of Italy’s most famous contemporary writers, and for those of us not fluent in Italian, they have been helpfully translated into English.

This is the tenth book in the Inspector Montalbano series and I was initially concerned to be joining the Inspector ten books in.  I felt sure  I would have missed some of the vital back story.  I needn’t have worried, as despite a few references to previous events the story is very much a self contained entity.

August Heat begins with the inspector and his girlfriend Livia preparing for a lazy August in a villa by the sea with friends.  As you might imagine things soon go awry and the disappearance of their friends child leads to a series of events which ensure August is anything but lazy.

The story moved along at an appropriate pace keeping me guessing until the end.  I had expected a whimsical story with  quirky characters.  The novel certainly contains quirkiness but the unpleasant turn the story takes would make me hesitate to call it whimsical.  Despite the grisly nature of the crime committed, there is humour, and I found myself sharing the Inspectors frustrations and enjoying his various personal  foibles as the events unfold.

Reading this during the first cold snap of the winter was very warming.  The relentless heat of the southern Italian summer features heavily and there are a number of scenes which find Inspector Montalbano adapting his clothing to the weather, and on occasion encouraging his assistant to do the same.

” ‘Now that they’re out of our hair,’Montalbano said to him, ‘lets try to do something sensible.  And the first sensible thing to do would be to put on our swimming trunks.  Otherwise, in this heat, we’ll never mange to think clearly.’

‘I haven’t got mine with me, Chief.’

Nor have I.  But Guido’s got three or four pairs.’

They found them and put them on .  Luckily they were made of Lycra, since otherwise the inspector would have needed braces and Gallo would have been charged with indecent exposure.”

This book was great for a quick read which didn’t demand too much whilst allowing me to lose myself in the story with a few chuckles along the way.  Inspector Montalbano has endeared himself to me and I shall be looking for more from this quirky series when I’m next scouring second-hand book shops.

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