Posted: January 22, 2012 in Italy, review, Sicily

The Potter’s Field is the thirteenth book in Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano Mystery series that has been translated into English by the American poet Stephen Sartarelli.

I have read all of them and have the sort of easy relationship with the books that resembles a long faithful marriage.  I know I will be charmed by Camilleri’s cleverness and with his characters even if his plots might be a little thin.

In The Potter’s Field we get some of the ingredients of a typical Montalbano story; an introspective detective, Dolores Alfano, a beautiful Colombian woman causing conflict among the local men, a slew of biblical references with a body chopped into thirty pieces, as well as Mafia involvement. Italy, and especially Sicily, has had four great influences on its development, Catholicism, Communism, Fascism and Mafia; and you can’t help feeling sorry for a people that have suffered both Mussolini and Berlusconi over the past ninety years. 

Montalbano gets assistance from the solid reliable Fazio, Catarella is once again a Sicilian Mrs Malaprop, and even Ingrid does a stakeout for Salvo; but Mimi Augello is constantly in a foul mood. Montalbano faced by Mimi’s hostility writes himself letters as he muses about the reasons for this, and puzzles over the identity of the dismembered corpse and the location of Giovanni Alfano, the husband of Dolores who apparently boarded his ship but has since disappeared. As I said the plot and the solution might be fairly transparent but the novel is full of cleverness, moulded around the theme of betrayal. Montalbano might be able to solve the case, but he has to manipulate that solution to reaffirm a friendship. 

Salvo Montalbano is frequently the master of  insubordination, but surpasses himself in this passage.

” Ah, so you, Mr Commissioner actually believed such a groundless accusation? Ah, I feel so insulted and humiliated! You’re accusing me of an act-no, indeed, a crime that, if true, would warrant severe punishment! As if I were a common idiot or gambler! That journalist must be possessed to think such a thing!”

End of climax. The inspector inwardly congratulated himself. He had managed to utter a statement using only the titles of novels by Dostoevsky. Had the commissioner noticed? Of course not! The man was as ignorant as a goat.

The biblical references abound with Montalbano reading a book by Andrea Camilleri- a popular version of the Passion of Christ. And even the references to the important subject of food have a biblical slant.

“Hello, Inspector. For antipasto today we’ve got fritters of nunnatu.”

“I want ’em.”

He committed a massacre of nunnati-newborns, that is. Herod had nothing on him. [nunnatu- a tiny newborn fish-whitebait]

Salvo Montalbano and Andrea Camilleri are growing comfortably old together and although there are never going to be many great surprises in these books they remain an enjoyable, educational, amusing and entertaining read. Roll on number fourteen. 

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – An excellent review of a series I like very much, too. I really enjoy the wit and the charcterisation in this series and it’s lovely to be reminded of it. I like that “Fan Club” badge, too :-).

  2. Norman says:

    Margot, I think I “stole” that badge from Camilleri’s official site, but I thought I was entitled in view of all the Italian food I have eaten. 🙂

  3. kathy d. says:

    I adore this series, plot be darned! There are few books I can pick up and then tune out the world, thinking I’m on the beach in Vigata, enjoying the water and the sunshine, or in a cafe eating pasta and seafood, with a good glass of wine.

    And, of course, there’s Montalbano and his team. What fun! Sometimes I feel like I’m watching a Marx Brothers comedy unfold in front of me, but a Sicilian version with intellectual overtones and arguments. And I must laugh out loud.

    The only thing bothering me as I read my eighth book (out of order) was that I had only five left. Now I read there are two more in the pipeline.

    I must read them over a period of time so I have to look forward to. Then, as my grey matter gets foggier, I’ll start rereading them.

  4. Maxine says:

    I haven’t got hold of this yet, I think from the cover you’ve reviewed the US edition (already out) not the UK (not out yet)? I have only skimmed your review as I too am eagerly anticipating this book!

  5. Norman says:

    Maxine, shall I send you my copy? [If you don’t mind pages turned down as markers. ;-)]

  6. […] POTTER’S FIELD has been reviewed at Crime Scraps, Murder by Type and The Crime […]

  7. […] Field has been reviewed by Bernadette at Reaction to Reading, Maxine at Euro Crime, Norman at Crime Scraps, Beth at Murder by Type, NacyO at The crime […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s