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August Heat (Review)

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August Heat
Andrea Camilleri, 2006 (trans., 2009)
272 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
August 2011

It's August, it's Sicily, and it's hot—and in the course of this novel, Inspector Salvo Montalbano takes 24 showers, baths, and dips in the sea. Sometimes it's his body, but just as often it's his fervid mind that needs cooling off.

Montalbano has a murder on his hands, and he's also trying to stave off a growing attraction to a woman young enough be be his daughter. Enough to make any man over-heat.

His troubles begin with the discovery of a corpse in the basement of a vacation house that friends of Salvo have rented for August. Suspicion lands immediately on the shady developer and his construction crew who built the house six years prior. All, it turns out, have solid alibis. Enter the stunningly beautiful sister of the victim, and we have a recipe for confusion and over-heated desire.

What makes this more than a simple police procedural is Salvo Montalbano, a man with a penchant for quoting fine poetry and a willingness to pause for a fine meal. Beneath the surface lies Salvo's outrage at human failings, especially the failings of his country's government. His case is tangled up in Sicilian cronyism, nepotism, Mafia paybacks, and a feckless prime minister in Rome.

Tension builds, leading to a rich climax. But at the end, as the Inspector plunges once more into the Mediterranean, he realizes he's fallen prey to his own all-too-human failings.

This is a fun, easy read—with two caveats: 1) a flat, even awkward translation, especially regarding Montalbano's assistant who, inexplicably, is provided with a Bronx accent; and 2) rather frank discussions of murder and sexual assault.

Andrea Camilleri, a male author, by the way, is well-read in his native country, Italy, and other parts of Europe—and is gaining a wider audience in the US. This is the tenth in his Inspector Montalbano series.

See our Reading Guide for August Heat.


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