Call me old fashioned, behind the times even (actually that really isn’t the case) but for some reason I have not really kept up with the Montalbano mystery series; I guess I have been too busy researching the contemporary slave trade and people trafficking.
A writer friend of mine, who spends most of her time immersed in Italian food and culture, suggested I should read the latest in the Italian crime fiction series, entitled The Age of Doubt, which has just been recently published (Nov 2011) by Mantle and is now a BBC4 spin off no less.
There are fourteen so far in the series and I do form the impression that once you begin it is hard to stop at just one. I felt rather strange beginning with the last but put doubt aside and figured it would get me away from the plot entanglements which have been giving so much trouble on my new novel The Unwanted.
So, I settled down to meet the Italian detective who is having a crisis of confidence as he faces middle age. I like the fact I have discovered him at this point, where a diet of good food, a rather sardonic sense of humour and a love of the female form have probably taken their toll on Montalbano. Yes, I can say I enjoyed the insight Camilleri offers into a man of advancing years.
You cannot help but empathise with his position and I found the detective’s antagonistic approach to those in positions of power engaging; it is a very familiar scene for many working people. You always have to have sympathy for the character on the front line and Camilleri achieves the antagonism delightfully. In fact throughout the story there are some funny incidents which give the reader moments of relief. Maybe I am guilty of falling back on an element of national stereotyping but I really did enjoy the police commissioner who loses his temper plus all the walk-on parts populating this drama set in Sicily.
The plot hinges on a yacht, a woman who is in trouble after a storm destroys the coastal road and a body so completely mauled it is impossible to identify by looks alone, therefore the scene is set for Montalbano to bring his irascible self into the frame and uncover just what has been going on. He doesn’t like it one bit and develops grave suspicions around everyone involved with the yacht in Vigata.
I don’t think you would read this novel for its intricate plot but I found myself extremely drawn to the detective who exhibits his frailties and his passion for excellent food. It is easy to read and there is no extraneous detail or heavy handedness about it. Some might call it pulp but if ‘page turner’ is your thing The Age of Doubt will please. It’s not a complex crime novel but Jim McKenna gives his seal of approval, so download it now and you can drop The Uncounted in your basket the same time as a distinct contrast!
Certainly The Age of Doubt is an ideal book to take on holiday and it is evocative with its sense of place and I look forward to reading The Shape Of Water when I find a moment. Still, it’s back to the manuscript and much gnashing of teeth. I’ll see you on the other side of this chapter!