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Mystery Monday Review – The Potter’s Field

The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

This 2008 mystery is 13th of the series that stars Inspector Montalbano, of the Vigata (Sicily) Police. It’s a satisfying mix of familiar elements, starting with the setting. Author Camilleri has said that the town of Vigata is based is his home town of Porto Empedocle, near Agrigento. After reading the alluring descriptions of Sicilian cuisine and landscapes, the reader wants to book tours to Modica and Ragusa.

Another familiar element is the unfolding of different plots. The cops and the readers assume various elements are not related. But gradually we realize that Sicily, an island with only 5 million people, is bound to have lots of intersections of people and the dodgy things they get up to.

A third stand-by is Montalbano’s subordinates. Fazio drives Salvo crazy by either collecting too much information or not passing on the information he’s collected. Lady’s man Mimi seems to be off the rails with a Spanish beauty in spite of the fact that his wife Beba just had a baby. And holy fool Catarella provides hilarious malaprops. There’s a slapstick scene with Cat near the beginning that will make readers laugh who think they despise slapstick.

Salvo Montalbano himself has much appeal. Getting older, he realizes that his bad temper and popping off at people are no longer leading him astray so much as a failing memory and erratic concentration. In this novel, he has to re-define himself as a boss and friend to his subordinates and come to terms with his own conscience. Besides the challenges of getting older, Salvo realizes that the world is changing and the values he cherishes are no longer considered essential by the dominant culture.

The novel impressed me a bit more than the other Camilleri stories. The dream that Montalbano has in the first pages and the deluge that accompanies him to the discovery of the body are examples of wonderful narration and plot development. Salvo is a true reader when he closely reads the Gospel of Matthew and gets a clue out of the place where Judas committed suicide. The theme of betrayal focuses on the various forms of unfaithfulness. In addition there is a game of fun house mirrors between Montalbano and Camilleri, subtle and ironic … who is observing whom?

Highly recommended.



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