Monday, November 02, 2009


After my weightier deliberations on the Ellis Peters award, and the Bernie Gunther series, it is nice to lighten the mood with a book about a Mafia murder.

Excursion To Tindari is one of my favourite books in the Salvo Montalbano Mystery series created by the Sicilian author Andrea Camilleri.

In many of Camilleri's books we read about the struggles of the underclass, but it is the indifference and ruthless brutality of many of the rich and powerful that is the crux of his stories. The reader gets the feeling that Montalbano, Mimi Augello, Fazio, and Catarella are in that middle ground trying to protect the silent majority within a judicial system that barely functions.

In Excursion To Tindari Andrea Camilleri does not pull any punches, and it is the stark contrast between all the humour, and the heartless real world that makes this such a good novel.
Salvo Montalbano is investigating the murder of Nene Sanfillippo, a twenty year old "with too much money in his pockets , and who brought a different woman home every other night".
The Griffos, a grumpy elderly couple, have disappeared, while they were on an excursion to the shrine at Tindari, and because they lived in the same apartment building as Nene, Montalbano suspects some connection.
Meanwhile Don Balduccio Sinagra, the old style local Mafia don, is concerned about his grandson who is on the run from both the police and rival 'new style' Mafia gangs.
Montalbano has to devise a scheme to prevent Mimi Augello leaving his team and relocating to Pavia where his new fiance works. He also needs to try to discover who is the beautiful older lover of young Nene featured in some pornographic videotapes.
This cocktail is stirred and shaken with accounts of Montalbano's relationships with his superiors, his team, his lover Livia in Genoa, his friend Ingrid and most importantly his stomach.

Caponata- a zesty traditional southern Italian dish often served as an appetizer or side dish, made up of sauteed aubergine, tomato, green pepper, garlic, onion, celery, black olives, vinegar, olive oil and anchovies.

As well as delicious sounding food Excursion To Tindari features some of Camilleri's greatest lines such as :

'He opened the fridge and let out a whinny of delight.'

And this superb passage that could only come out of Italy.

'They saved everything-letters, greeting cards, photographs, telegrams, electrical and phone bills........

There was even a copy of the certificate of living existence, that nadir of bureaucratic imbecility. What might Gogol and his dead souls, have concocted from such a document?
Had a copy fallen into his hands, Franz Kafka would surely have come up with another of his anguishing short stories.
And now we had self -certification, how was one supposed to proceed?
What was the protocol, to use a word dear to government offices?

Did one simply write on a sheet of paper something like: I the undersigned, Salvo Montalbano, hereby declare myself to be in existence, sign it and turn it in to the appointed clerk.'

Don't miss this great series and if you haven't tried it yet there are ten books by Andrea Camilleri translated into English with more to come. Enjoy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - This sounds like one of the few good novels about the Mafia that's realistic without being gratuitous. I'm especially intrigued by what you say about the way the novel contrasts humor with "real world" heartlessness. I'm simply going to have to get my appetite ready and sit down to Camilleri's table...

4:44 AM  
Blogger gautami tripathy said...

Like the punch lines. Worth checking out. Thanks!

Here is my Crime Fiction Alphabet: E post!

4:52 AM  

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