Andrea Camilleri’s series of crime novels, centering around Inspector Montalbano, are hugely popular in his native Italy and have been adapted for both radio and television. English-speaking readers have only been familiar with the novels for a few years, but Stephen Sartarelli’s excellent translations have been rolling of the press with satisfying regularity and The Patience of the Spider is the eighth in the series. Another one is due for publication this summer.
On one level Montalbano corresponds with the modern fictional detective in that he is rather dysfunctional (at least in his personal life), work-obsessed and subject to mood-swings, but these are not the dark, violent and deeply psychological thrillers of some of the current Scandanavian crime writers. These are as much comic novels as anything else and, moreover, political satires as well. Camilleri is well-known for his left-wing political alliegance, but uses satire as his chief weapon against the self-serving policies and corruption of Berlusconi and his fellow crooks and cronies. These are wonderfully refreshing novels that are fullof atmosphere and wit. Think more of Dario Fo and, perhaps, Giovanni Guareschi than Henning Mankell and Karin Fossum.