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"I had a little friend, a peasant boy, who was younger than me. I was about ten. One day I saw that my friend had put a bowl, a cup, a teapot, and a square milk carton on the edge of a well, had filled them all with water, and was looking at them attentively.

"'What are you doing?' I asked him. And he answered me with a question in turn.

"'What shape is water?'

"'Water doesn't have any shape!' I said laughing. 'It takes the shape you give it.'"

This first mystery in the Inspector Salvo Montalbano series introduces us to the sardonic but determined policeman, the imaginary Sicilian seacoast town of Vigáta, and a cast of colorful characters. Mr. Camilleri's Sicily is just as thoroughly corrupt as you'd expect it to be and no one much seems to mind, other than Montalbano, who isn't about to let everyone else's eagerness to look away stop him from solving the murder of a respected local politician. The opportunity to let it slide by is ample, as it's not even apparent at first that a crime was committed, but the fact that the body was found in a trash yard that's a notorious pick-up spot for whores is sufficiently out of the victim's public character that the Inspector starts digging.

The particular strengths of the book are the setting that Camilleri brings to life -- not least by taunting us with the vittles Montalbano enjoys -- and the witty character of the Inspector, as well as his becoming determination to see justice done, even if he has to bend the rules himself on occasion.


Grade: (A-)


See also:

Andrea Camilleri Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Andrea Camillieri
-Andrea Camilleri Author Page (Italian Mysteries)
    -Andrea Camilleri (Bastulli Mystery Library)
    -READING GROUP GUIDE: The Shape of Water (Penguin)
    -ESSAY: ANDREA CAMILLERI: A CRIME READER’S GUIDE TO THE CLASSICS: A tour through Inspector Salvo Montalbano's Sicily and the life and works of an Italian mystery icon. (NEIL NYREN, 9/17/21, CrimeReads)
    -ESSAY: Cooking with Andrea Camilleri (Valerie Stivers February 5, 2021, Paris Review)
    -PROFILE: A Writer Who Followed His Own Clues to Fame (FRANK BRUNI, October 12, 2002, NY Times)
    -PROFILE: Andrea Camilleri (Michele Parisi, Best of Sicily Magazine)
    -PROFILE: Hold The Parmesan: Sicilian author serves up murder—with fried mullets (Lenora Todaro, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: Death Takes a Holiday (Marilyn Stasio, 8/29/04, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: The marvelous Montalbano : The translation of the Montalbano novels from page to screen ranks as an artistic triumph (Chilton Williamson, Jr., December 20, 2023, Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Shape of Water (HILLARY FREY, The Nation)
    -REVIEW: of The Shape of Water (Tobias Jones, London Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of The Shape of Water (William Georgiades, Voice Literary Supplement)
    -REVIEW: of The Shape of Water (Sandy McKinney, Alsop Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Shape of Water (Ayo Onatade, Shots Mag)
    -REVIEW: of The Shape of Water (Carlo Vennarucci, November 2003, Italian Mysteries)
    -REVIEW: of The Sicilian Method by Andrea Camilleri (Joan Leotta, Washington Independent Review of Books)

Book-related and General Links: