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by Andrea Camilleri and Stephen Sartarelli, trans.
Penguin Books, September 2013
288 pages
ISBN: 0143122622

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In the sixteenth offering in this madly popular Italian detective series, author Andrea Camilleri brings us up to date with Sicilian Police Inspector Salvo Montalbano who continues to age apace, to eat too much often, and to take long walks in order to be able to eat too much. Juggling his relationships with two attractive women, one a friend and one more than a friend, each intelligent and sharp-tongued, adds to the image we have of his foibles and charm.

The novel opens with an elderly sister and brother, clearly deranged, shooting wildly from their upper story apartment and so barricaded that Montalbano must climb up the outside of the building to their terrace in order to confront them as other police break in their doorway. The apartment is disgusting and creepy, the one find or interest a much used and abused inflatable doll which has been damaged and patched repeatedly.

Soon afterwards, Montalbano is called to investigate a dead body in a dumpster which turns out to be not a body at all but another inflatable doll damaged identically to the one found in the apartment. Now the butt of jokes and scorn from local authorities and administrators for being unable to know whether a body is really a body, Montalbano begins receiving a series of clues, amateurishly poetic, which do not appear to lead to anything but he follows up on them as he has the time. A young man who admires the inspector asks permission to observe him as he "detects" and, having serious issues to deal with, Montalbano allows him to follow the clues to see what he can figure out from them, having already made up his own mind first.

If this were a stand-alone novel, it would be difficult to understand why Montalbano bothers to spend time on this silly game that someone has devised for him But it's not a stand-alone and even readers new to the series are quick to understand that Monrtalbano is successful at what he does because of the way his mind works - which in a way is why the young man wants to observe how he works - so Camilleri pulls off a clever mystery that engages both the long-time and the brand new audience.

The escalation of the intensity of the clues and of the sense that they point to something deeply sinister and frightening is carefully structured and more complex than it at first appears. As with seeing the classic film Witness for the Prosecution a second time, knowing the end of TREASURE HUNT makes a second reading of the novel an entirely new and differently satisfying experience. Kudos, indeed.

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, October 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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