13 July 2010

Review: AUGUST HEAT, Andrea Camilleri

Penguin Books 2009
Originally published in 2006 as LA VAMPA D'AGOSTO
Translated into English by Stephen Sartarelli
An Inspector Montalbano Mystery
ISBN 978-0-14-311405-5
277 pages

August is not the month to be working in Sicily. The heat is oppressive, sweat-drenching, and, if you have no airconditioning, almost unbearable. Inspector Salva Montalbano had intended to leave Vigata to spend the holiday season with his girlfriend Livia, somewhere cooler.

When Salva has to work after all, Livia decides to rent a house by the sea near Vigata. She brings the family of her dearest friend with her. The house has been a summer rental for the past six years ever since its German owner died and his stepson mysteriously disappeared.

The troubles at the beachside house begin on the morning of the third day with an invasion of an army of  black cockroaches. On the fifth day it is mice, and then on the eighth, spiders. On the eleventh day 3 year old Bruno, the son of Livia's friends, disappears. Montalbano discovers that he has slipped down a narrow shaft leading under the house. In rescuing Bruno, Montalbano uncovers a six-year old murder.

AUGUST HEAT is one of those novels where the weather, the almost unrelenting and palpable heat, becomes one of the cast of characters. Livia and her friends leave after the discovery of the body and so Montalbano doesn't even have her as a distraction.

Reconstructing events that are dead cold is never easy. People's memories are less than precise, witnesses are no longer available, and murderers cover their tracks. Montalbano's peeling back the layers is what makes AUGUST HEAT good reading.

It seems that in the original Italian Camilleri attempted to reproduce the sounds of speech of Montalbano's assistant Catarella. The results of the translation into English are almost comic, and had me reading Catarella's utterances very carefully.
"Catarella? Montalbano here"
"I already rec'nize ya inasmuch as yer voice is all yours, Chief."


AUGUST HEAT is #10 in Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series. I have only read one or two others, but was able to enjoy this title almost as a stand-alone.

My rating 4.5

AUGUST HEAT has been shortlisted for the for the 2010 CWA International Dagger.
Other reviews to check: Crime Scraps, Reactions to Reading, Euro Crime

2 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - Lovely review - thanks. And I like your comment about Catarella's speech patterns and the way they're re-created in translation. I think that's really an interesting aspect of translated fiction...

Dorte H said...

Ah, this plot sounds fascinating. I am crazy about old murders!

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