Title: Rounding the Mark
Author: Andrea Camilleri
Translator: Stephen Sartarelli
Publisher: Penguin, 2006
Paperback, 272 pages
Genre: Police Procedural, Humorous Mysteries, #7 Inspector Salvo Montalbano mystery
Source: Paperback Swap
First Line: Stinking, treacherous night.
Salvo Montalbano is going through a rough patch at work. He wants to quit, even though he loves his job. One night he can't sleep and since he lives right on the beach, he goes for a swim. Unfortunately he bumps into a dead body while he's out there and has to haul it back to shore. In his quest for the cause of death, Montalbano realizes that this death coincides with the hit-and-run death of a young boy who may have been victimized by human traffickers. When Montalbano realizes that he may have inadvertently helped the boy's abusers, he is sickened and even more determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.
This (and the entire series) is far from a run-of-the-mill police procedural. There aren't many authors like Camilleri who can turn a creepy scene like finding a badly decomposed body at sea into a scene that can make a reader laugh out loud. (I refuse to tell you how. That should be part of your fun.)
The ingredients that make this series so special are Camilleri's gallows humor and his cast of characters-- Montalbano's "soldiers". They are a wonderful bunch of very different personalities, and even though they may drive each other to distraction on a regular basis, I don't think they'd want to work with anyone else-- especially when they have a boss who allows them to tell him when he's being the southbound end of a northbound horse.
The characterizations are brilliant; there is such a sense of Sicily as you read; the humor is often laugh-out-loud funny; and there are the unexpected jewels. Rounding the Mark had one of those gems: the grouchy Montalbano being genuinely heartbroken at being an unknowing accomplice in that young boy's death can bring a tear to the eye.
In roughly 250 pages, Camilleri can deliver a masterful piece of work that many other authors would take 400 pages to accomplish. Each book is a gem, and I intend to savor every single one.
For any of you who may be hesitant to read a translated book, don't be. Sartarelli has won awards for his translations, and those awards are deserved. He manages to imply dialects in a way that isn't confusing, and for anyone who needs a little extra information, the back of each book contains a few pages of notes that deal with any historical references, language, food, and previous books in the series.
If at all possible, this is one mystery series that you should sample. If I had four thumbs, they'd all be pointing at the sky. (I'm sure Camilleri would have something pithy to say about that....)