Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A Nest of Vipers by Andrea Camilleri


First Line: He found himself in a dense forest with Livia, having no idea how they got there.
When wealthy widower Cosimo Barletta is found dead with a gunshot wound to the neck, his past is opened to scrutiny as Inspector Montalbano and his team work to find the man's killer. And what a past it is. Barletta has spent a lifetime cruelly extorting beautiful young women to become his mistresses, and if that weren't enough, it becomes obvious that his wealth was based upon greed and corruption. It might take Montalbano extra time to sort through all the people Barletta has done wrong in order to find the killer. But if anyone can do it, the wily inspector can.


In a series that has run as long as Andrea Camilleri's has, not every installment is going to be a barnburner. That is the case with A Nest of Vipers. In his Author's Note, Camilleri admits that the plot of this book is very similar to that of The Paper Moon, the difference being that he became stronger in writing about a certain topic in A Nest of Vipers. I could tell you what that topic is, but it would give away too much of the story. Personally, I think it's one that doesn't need multiple covers due in part to the fact that it can be too easily deduced.

Speaking of deduction, Salvo Montalbano is never at his best when confronted with beautiful young women. One after another, he is brought face to face with drop-dead gorgeous young things as he tries to work his way through all the dead man's mistresses. They are prime suspects after all. Also, in previous reviews I've made it very clear that I don't like Montalbano's longtime girlfriend, Livia. She can't cook. She's vindictive. She hates Montalbano's housekeeper. And--worst of all in my book-- she lives to pick fights with the inspector. But... if you are one of the many who believe fighting adds spice to any romance, this relationship will be right in your wheelhouse.

For me, the saving grace of A Nest of Vipers is its humor. From the gold standard dialogue of Catarella to the coroner whose aspiration in life is to perform Montalbano's autopsy to the inspector's finding a new home for his mountains of paperwork, there are plenty of smiles, chuckles, and outright laughs to be found.

If only there hadn't been an overload of estrogen. Poor Montalbano has so much trouble dealing with it.

A Nest of Vipers by Andrea Camilleri
Translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli
ISBN: 9780143126652
Penguin Books © 2017
Paperback, 272 pages
Police Procedural, #22 Inspector Montalbano mystery
Rating: C+
Source: Paperback Swap


  1. I have read so many books starring Salvo Montalbano that the plots run together in my mind, so I don't know which one this is, but I read it.
    I do know that very often the young women that fluster the inspector are the perpetrators or are involved in the crimes in some way. What a letdown for him.
    I don't mind Livia, certainly not because she can't cook. She is often irked at Montalbano, but many times he deserves it. He cancels plans to visit or her or for them to take a vacation. She knows he can't be trusted around young women, and that he has been unfaithful. So she is suspicious and jealous.
    What I don't like is her entitledness if there is such a word. She acts like a spoiled, wealthy person who is not flexible and can't adapt to the circumstances.
    I don't think she's quite this way in the TV movie episodes, bu I don't remember exactly. It's been awhile since I viewed them.
    And I do love the humor. I have laughed until I cried at some lines, including Catarella's.

    1. It's not a sin that Livia can't cook. The sin is the fact that she believes she can... and she's horrible at it. You know how well that would suit Montalbano.

    2. Well, Montalbana has a wonderful housekeeper who leave him delicious meals to reheat when he gets home.

    3. Adelina and Livia hate each other. Adelina won't step foot on the property when Livia's there, and Livia goes out of her way to commit petty, vindictive things against Adelina. If Livia's around, Adelina's not going to be the cook.

    4. But sometimes Adelina leaves Salvo food in the refrigerator when Livia isn't around to see her.

  2. You have a point, Cathy, that not every installment of a long series is going to be excellent. But here's my thinking: even a not-so-great Camilleri is a lot better than some people's best. So I forgive the occasional 'that could have been better' feeling when it comes to series like this one. And there is the wit, and the delicious food. And the setting. And...

    1. You nailed it, Margot. Is one lackluster installment going to make me stop reading this series? This is #22, and I have at least three more on the TBR shelves, so the answer is No!

  3. I agree about the bit of sameness when it becomes a very long series. But as you say there is humour and food and enjoyable settings. So much to enjoy as well. Thank you for the post.


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