Sunday, November 21, 2021

Novellas in November: Montalbano's First Case by Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri’s very popular police procedural series about Inspector Salvo Montalbano is set in a fictional town on the Italian coast, called Vigàta. It consists of 28 novels, all of which were written in Italian and have been translated into English.

Montalbano's First Case is a prequel to the Inspector Montalbano series. In this short novel, Montalbano gets his first assignment in Vigàta, after spending his time in an apprenticeship as a deputy inspector in Mascalippa. 

The story begins with Montalbano's concerns about being stuck in Mascalippa for his new assignment. He just doesn't like the mountainous area he is living in. His boss realizes this and facilitates his assignment to Vigàta, which is a seaside town, the type of terrain that Montalbano wants to live in. Montalbano then goes in advance to check out the town in advance, not announcing himself as the new Chief Inspector. But the word gets around. He finds a good restaurant immediately.

The first case Montalbano takes on is not a murder case, but more of a case of attempted murder. He sees a very young girl hiding a gun in her handbag and takes her in for questioning. He follows up on what she was planning to do with the gun and her motivation. During the investigation, the reader learns more about Montalbano's views on crime and punishment.

I have only read the first two books in the series, but this one seemed to have a much slower pace than the full-length novels. But that was a good thing, I enjoyed it a lot. It also seemed less serious, with more humor. This novella was an introduction to some of Montalbano's quirks and characteristics, that might not be so obvious in the full length novels. I usually don't like prequels to mystery series but this one was very good. 

I read this novella in a book of short stories, titled Montalbano's First Case and Other Stories. I have now read a few of the shorter stories and I highly recommend that book. All of the stories in the book are translated by Stephen Sartarelli.

This is the third novella I have reviewed for the Novellas in November 2021 reading event. It fits in the "Literature in Translation" theme. The host blogs are 746 Books and Bookish Beck


Cath said...

Yes, this novella is definitely the first episode of the 'Young Montalbano' TV series that I mentioned before. I didn't know there was a book version of it so I must grab it sometime and read it. The Sicilian scenery in the TV series is out of this world.

TracyK said...

Cath, just yesterday I ran into a listing of the first 6 episodes of 'Young Montalbano' and I thought that their brief summary sounded like it was based on this story. It is a very good read. I will have to see whether the two series are available to me on streaming services we use.

Someone who reviewed the short story book said a lot of the stories had been used in one or the other of the TV series.

Sam Sattler said...

I haven't read any of these, but they sound like fun. Anything that popular for that long, has to have a lot going for it, so I have the series on my checklist for later. Glad to see that you like it...and I absolutely love the cover of this one.

TracyK said...

Sam, the Montalbano series is definitely worth trying. I have only read the first two novels but I have several more on my shelves.

Rick Robinson said...

As you know, I’m reading Death At Sea, which is Montalbano’s early cases. It’s excellent! I’ve read the book you feature here, and loved it as well, and have also read the first five or six novels and liked them a lot. Barbara is way ahead of me in reading the series, but doesn’t like short stories (not enough plot and character development), but I may talk her into these.

I’ll have a short story post up Tuesday night. Package sent.

TracyK said...

Rick, When I finish this book of stories I will check out Death at Sea, which sounds very good. I have the third novel ready to read, maybe in December, maybe in January.

Thanks for sending the package. I will be looking out for it.

I hope to have a short story post up Tuesday night also.