August Heat (Camilleri)

August Heat (Inspector Montalbano series #10)
Andrea Camilleri, 2006 (trans., 2009)
Penguin Group USA
272 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780143114055

When a colleague extends his summer vacation, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is forced to stay in Vigàta and endure the August heat. Montalbano's long-suffering girlfriend, Livia, joins him with a friend-husband and young son in tow-to keep her company during these dog days of summer.

But when the boy suddenly disappears into a narrow shaft hidden under the family's beach rental, Montalbano, in pursuit of the child, uncovers something terribly sinister. As the inspector spends the summer trying to solve this perplexing case, Livia refuses to answer his calls-and Montalbano is left to take a plunge that will affect the rest of his life.

Fans of the Sicilian inspector as well as readers new to this increasingly popular series will enjoy following the melancholy but unflinchingly moral Montalbano as he undertakes one of the most shocking investigations of his career. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—September 6, 1925
Where—Porto Empedocle, Sicily, Italy
Education—Faculty of Literature (no degree);
   Accademia Nazionale d'Arte Drammatica
Awards— Nino Martoglio International Book Award
Currently—lives in Rome, Italy

Andrea Camilleri is an Italian writer. Originally from Porto Empedocle, Sicily, Camilleri, began studies at the Faculty of Literature in 1944, without concluding them, meanwhile publishing poems and short stories.

From 1948 to 1950 Camilleri studied stage and film direction at the Silvio D'Amico Academy of Dramatic Arts (Accademia Nazionale d'Arte Drammatica) and began to take on work as a director and screenwriter, directing especially plays by Pirandello and Beckett. As a matter of fact, his parents knew Pirandello and were even distant friends, as he tells in his essay on Pirandello "Biography of the changed son". His most famous works, the Montalbano series show many pirandellian elements: for example, the wild olive tree that helps Montalbano think is on stage in his late work "The giants of the mountain."

With RAI, Camilleri worked on several TV productions, such as Inspector Maigret with Gino Cervi. In 1977 he returned to the Academy of Dramatic Arts, holding the chair of Movie Direction and occupying it for 20 years.

In 1978 Camilleri wrote his first novel Il Corso Delle Cose (The Way Things Go). This was followed by Un Filo di Fumo (A Thread of Smoke) in 1980. Neither of these works enjoyed any significant amount of popularity.

In 1992, after a long pause of 12 years, Camilleri once more took up novel-writing. A new book, La Stagione della Caccia (The Hunting Season) turned out to be a best-seller.

In 1994 Camilleri published the first in a long series of novels: La forma dell'Acqua (The Shape of Water) featured the character of Inspector Montalbano, a fractious Sicilian detective in the police force of Vigàta, an imaginary Sicilian town. The series is written in Italian but with a substantial sprinkling of Sicilian phrases and grammar. The name Montalbano is an homage to the Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán; the similarities between Montalban's Pepe Carvalho and Camilleri's fictional detective are remarkable. Both writers make great play of their protagonists' gastronomic preferences.

This feature provides an interesting quirk which has become something of a fad among his readership even in mainland Italy. The TV adaptation of Montalbano's adventures, starring the perfectly-cast Luca Zingaretti, further increased Camilleri's popularity to such a point that in 2003 Camilleri's home town, Porto Empedocle—on which Vigàta is modelled—took the extraordinary step of changing its official name to that of Porto Empedocle Vigàta, no doubt with an eye to capitalising on the tourism possibilities thrown up by the author's work.

On his website, Camilleri refers to the engaging and multi-faceted character of Montalbano as a “serial killer of characters." meaning that he has developed a life of his own and demands great attention from his author, to the demise of other potential books and different personages. Camilleri added that he writes a Montalbano novel every so often just so that the character will be appeased and allow him to work on other stories.

In 1998 Camilleri won the Nino Martoglio International Book Award.

Camilleri now lives in Rome where he works as a TV and theatre director. About 10 million copies of his novels have been sold to date and are becoming increasingly popular in the UK and North America.

In addition to the degree of popularity brought him by the novels, in recent months Andrea Camilleri has become even more of a media icon thanks to the parodies aired on an RAI radio show, where popular comedian, TV-host and impression artist Fiorello presents him as a raspy voiced, caustic character, madly in love with cigarettes and smoking (Camilleri is well-known for his love of tobacco).

He received an honorary degree from University of Pisa in 2005.  (From Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
With his eye for beautiful women, his taste for fine literature and a tendency to stop in his tracks to indulge in a meal, the idiosyncratic Montalbano is totally endearing.
Marilyn Stasio - New York Times Book Review

The joys of August Heat arise less from the central plot than from its margins: Montalbano's never-flagging fondness for food, his ruminations on aging and his commentaries on Italian society.... Often, the investigation serves as a kind of scaffolding from which to hang skit-length romps.... But the occasional absurdity doesn't detract from the novel's myriad pleasures.
Washington Post

Camilleri's 10th mystery to feature Sicilian Insp. Salvo Montalbano (after 2008's Paper Moon) cleverly balances a compelling story line with engaging characters. Urged by his girlfriend, Livia, to find a summer rental for a friend of hers in Vigàta, Montalbano ends up selecting a house with a tainted past. The man who built the house died in a fall soon after its construction, and his 20-year-old stepson, Ralf Gudrun, vanished. After the young son of Livia's friend disappears, Montalbano finds the missing boy, essentially unharmed, but in the process stumbles upon a corpse, later identified as that of an attractive 16-year-old girl who disappeared six years earlier. Suspects include a real estate developer with unhealthy sexual appetites as well as the missing Gudrun. While the solution is less complicated than, say, those Peter Lovesey provides for his similar series sleuth, Peter Diamond, the humor and humanity of Montalbano make him an equally winning lead character.
Publishers Weekly

Montalbano’s various weaknesses lead directly to the troubling finale, leaving him forced to, yes, strip off his clothes one more time and dive into the sea, hoping to swim away his regrets. Combine the movies Body Heat and The Seven-Year Itch, blending the noir of the former with the farce of the latter, and you have something like this beguiling tragicomedy. —Bill Ott

The victim in Inspector Salvo Montalbano's tenth case (The Paper Moon, 2008, etc.) has been waiting six years in a chest in an illegally constructed apartment. It's not easy to find a Sicilian beach house for rent during August. So when his girlfriend Livia, denied a vacation with the inspector by his colleague's change of summer plans, insists that he find a rental for her friend Laura, Montalbano's proud of his discovery, until the plagues begin: cockroaches, mice, spiders, floods. Finally Laura's toddler disappears-into a pit, it turns out, that leads to a secret ground-floor apartment constructed and buried in defiance of the building code. It's the exact duplicate of Laura's apartment, except for the corpse in the chest. The victim, 16-year-old Caterina Morreale, was obviously assaulted and killed by someone who had access to the apartment on the day it was hidden from view to await a government amnesty on illegal construction. Was the killer well-connected contractor Michele Spitaleri, who liked his girls young? Foreman Angelino Dipasquale? Mason Gaspare Micciche? Watchman Filiberto Attanasio, a habitual offender? Or Ralf Speciale, late stepson of the German businessman for whom the apartment was built? With help from a most unusual young woman, Montalbano battles the usual corruption, incompetence and indifference, compounded this time by heat that repeatedly moves him to strip to his underwear. He comes up with a solution as satisfying as it is unsurprising. Despite its noirish undertones, the perfect beach read for those lucky enough to have found suitable accommodations.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for August Heat:

1. How would you describe the character of Inspector Salvo Montalbano?

2. How does Livia strike you? Is she justified in her anger at Salvo over the rental and how he dealt with the body found in the basement?

3. What is it about the developer Michele Spitaleri that makes Montalbano dislike him and want to prosecute him?

4. After Montalbano and Fazio's nighttime visit to Spitaleri's construction site to extract information from the watchman, Montalbano feels remorse for his actions. Why? Should he feel remorseful?

5. What was your reaction to the attraction between Salvo and Adriana?

6. What does the Inspector come to understand about attempting to prosecute Spitaleri for the death of the Arab workman? What is the reason given by his colleague, Inspector Lozupone of the neighboring precinct, for not following through on an investigation of the  accident?

7. Author Andrea Camilleri drops several red-herrings, false leads, along the way toward the final solution. Did any of them trip you up? In other words, whom did you initially suspect?

8. Were you surprised by the ending? If not, what led you to the murderer?

9. What does Salvo realize by the end, when he dives into the Mediterranean?

10. Does this dectective story deliver in terms of intrigue, mystery, characters? Is it a compelling read? If you're a fan of other detective series, how does this one compare, particularly the character of Inspector Montablano? Similar...different? As good as...?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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