Camilleri, Andrea - 'The Track of Sand' (translated by Stephen Sartarelli)
Inspector Salvatore Montalbano wakes up one morning to find the body of a horse on the beach to the rear of his home. Following its trail along the beach, he finds the spot where it was beaten to death with iron bars.
"The inspector felt so furious and indignant that had he had one of the horse's killers in his hands at that moment, he would have made him meet the same end."
He resolves to investigate despite the fact that the case really belongs to a neighbouring jurisdiction. Soon he is entangled in Sicily's upmarket horse-racing set and is facing real threats to his own well-being, both physical and mental.
As ever, though, the plot is almost incidental to the colour. Camilleri has a winning formula that he has perfected over a dozen Montalbano stories, and he sticks to it closely here. Montalbano squabbles with his team, agonises over the various beautiful women that throw themselves at him, has semi-mystical moments, reminisces, and most of all eats:
"Shrimps, langoustine, flying squid, smoked tuna, fried balls of nunnatu, sea urchins, mussels, clams, octopus morsels a strascinasale, octopus morsels affucati, tiny fried squid, squid and cuttlefish tossed in a salad with orange slices and celery, capers wrapped in anchovies, sardines a beccafico, swordfish carpaccio..."
I do have quibbles. Personally, dream sequences drive me up the wall and opening a book with one really rankles. Why do Montalbano's team always have to fill him in on organised crime activities? I imagine these would be uppermost in any Sicilian police inspector's mind. Finally, I don't want to give anything away, but there are some things, when put in a chap's trousers, that it's difficult to miss when removing those trousers.
Nonetheless, I always like spending time in Montalbano's company as he is one of the most likeable detectives in fiction. His burgeoning mid-life crisis is fuelled here by his discovery that he may need glasses - "Maybe not the end of the world, but certainly the end of one's prime".
As always, Stephen Sartarelli's translation is vivacious and a joy to read. A high point is Montalbano "watching a race in the middle of a sea of arseholes" at a high-society event.
Definitely one for your suitcase this summer.
Read another review of THE TRACK OF SAND.
Rich Westwood, England