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This is 88-year old Andrea Camilleri’s sixteenth detective novel in English centred on Inspector Salvo Montalbano, now aged 57. On the basis of this book, the author is aging rather better than his character. Once again, the translation is in the capable hands of Stephen Sartarelli.
The action opens with two aged reclusive siblings, Gregorio and Caterina Palmisano, shooting at the ‘sinners’ in the street below their extensive Vigàta apartment. They are quickly arrested and taken to a mental hospital. However, when Montalbano and his Sicilian team, Mimi Augello [who, at one stage, leaves his boss flabbergasted], Fazio, Gallo and Gulluzzo, begin to explore the darkened rooms they discover religious artefacts and pictures, grand pianos and a decrepid and much-patched inflated doll.
This event is rather welcome since there is very little happening on the crime front and Camilleri creates a rather reflective Montalbano, wondering whether his reaction to searching the room was an indication of his feeling his age. The detective rails against modern language when his mechanic gives him bad news about his car [‘’I’m afraid she’s ready to be junked, Inspector.’ The use of that verb set his nerves on edge. Whenever he heard it, whenever he read it, his balls immediately started to spin. And it wasn’t the only word that had this effect on him. There were others: securitise, contingency, restructuring, as per, precurrent and dozens more. Languages long dead invented wonderful words they handed down to us for eternity. Whereas our modern languages, when they died – which was inevitable, since every tongue on earth was becoming a colony of American English, itself dying a slow death by suicide – what words would they hand down to posterity? Junked? Kickback? Normalcy
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