The Wings of the Sphinx is the eleventh Montalbano mystery to be translated into English by the American poet Stephen Sartarelli. Sartarelli's translations always do a good job differentiating the various voices and brilliantly capture the charm of Sicily's Mrs Malaprop, Catarella, one of the great comic characters in modern crime fiction. Also Sartarelli's superb notes at the end of the books make both informative and interesting reading.
It is usually extremely difficult to maintain a uniformly high standard in a long running crime fiction series. But although they naturally vary a bit along the way all the Montalbano books are good, mainly because they do not rely on the plots, but much more on the wonderful characters, clever humour, descriptions of fishy meals and the Sicilian atmosphere. The Wings of the Sphinx is in my opinion one of the best of the series.
Montalbano's faltering long distance relationship with Livia is in crisis. The detective now fifty six is feeling his age and regretting his lost opportunities. In Wings of the Sphinx he has to deal with two cases, one serious; a young woman found dead with her face half shot off and the only hint to her identity a tattoo of a sphinx moth; and one possibly less so as the kidnapping of the fifty-year-old wholesaler in wood, Arturo Picarella, might have something to do with a stewardess he met flying back from Sweden, especially as he happened to have his passport on him when seized.
The tattoo links the murdered girl to several other similarly marked girls from the same town in Russia, and a 'benevolent' Catholic charity.
The police investigation involves piecing together a complex trail that is possibly easier to unravel than Montalbano's chaotic personal problems.
The Wings of the Sphinx is a short book but contains all the idiosyncratic characters that make the books such a success Montalbano, Catarella, Fazio, Mimi Augello, Livia, Dr Pasquano and the Swedish beauty Ingrid all have a part to play. Once again Andrea Camilleri proves he can in a mere 200 plus pages produce a gem of a story.
...Francesco Di Noto. Decked out in Armani, top-of-the -line loafers worn without socks, Rolex, shirt open to a golden crucifix suffocating in a forest of unkempt, rampant black hair.
He was surely the idiot tooling around in the Ferrari. But the inspector wanted confirmation.
"My compliments on your beautiful car."
"Thanks. It's a 360 Modena. I've also got a Porsche Carrera."
Double cretin with fireworks.
If you have not read this series yet you are in for a rare treat, and luckily for us Camilleri fanatics those magic words 'not yet translated from the Italian' refer to at least four more Montalbano books.
The sea wasn't calm yet, but neither was it so rough as to prevent the fishing boats from going out. He felt comforted by the thought that he could finally eat fresh fish at Enzo's.
So comforted that he went back to bed and slept for three more hours to make up for the sleep he'd lost.