Camilleri, Andrea - 'The Snack Thief' (translated by Stephen Sartarelli)
On a recent trip to Italy, what better book to take with me for the journey than an installment of Camilleri's sublime series of Sicilian crime stories? THE SNACK THIEF did not disappoint.
Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a vivid character: irascible with his men, extremely fond of his food, and very good at police work. He knows how to operate in a maze of institutionalised corruption. Owing to an inevitable telephonic misunderstanding with the terminologically confused, if enthusiastic, Catarella, it is Montalbano's handsome deputy Mimi Augello who takes on the case of a Tunisian shot on a local fishing boat. Salvo, for his part, begins to investigate the case of a man who is found stabbed in a lift in a local block of flats one morning (as ever, the scenes of disruption of the local residents' daily lives are pure joy).
True to form, the two cases which at first seem unrelated begin to have more and more in common. Salvo's investigations lead him to a new friend, Clementina, an elderly woman confined to a wheelchair who is a key witness to the convoluted affair confronting Salvo as he slowly unravels the knotted life of Karima, a mysterious cleaning woman who seems central to the case.
The 'Snack Thief' himself turns out to be more significant to Salvo and his girlfriend Livia than either of them had thought could be possible. Does he herald a seismic shift in their comfortable but semi-detached relationship?
As with Camilleri's other books, I loved this outing. Unflinching in its descriptions of life in the raw, yet with a sweet sense of place and yearning for simpler times, the tone is unerring. The plot of THE SNACK THIEF is stronger than that of some of the other books in the series, with Salvo's flashes of inspiration and erratic actions adding up to a satisfying conclusion, tinged with sadness, yet providing hope for the future.
Maxine Clarke, England