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Snack Thief? Do They Arrest People for That in Sicily?

May 19, 2012 by Reader's Connection

The Snack ThiefTina and Tom had recommended the mysteries by Andrea Camilleri. The first two in the series were checked out, so I started with The Snack Thief. My first reaction to the main series character, Inspector Montalbano, had to do with the fact that he doesn´t take notes. Whenever a detective on TV takes notes during an investigation, Montalbano changes the channel.

Isn’t that silly? Shouldn’t police detectives take notes? But (a) that was a librarian sort of reaction and (b) the story takes place in Sicily, where things are done differently. Once I had abandoned my midwestern hang-ups and agreed to spend time with this irascible, food-loving cop, the book moved like an Italian speedster zooming along a seaside highway. The case grows ever more complicated, with lots of details, but Camilleri keeps his foot on the pedal; and there are as many laughs as there are turns in the road.

Here’s a taste of Montalbano. He’s interviewing the adult son of a murder victim, who has just shown the inspector a letter that the deceased dad had sent to the son, who’s a doctor. The letter was a plea for help which the son had ignored.

 “Stop right there. So you were convinced that the help your father was asking for was actually some sort of loan?”

“To be perfectly frank, yes.”

“And you refused to get involved, despite the desperate, disturbing tone of the letter.”

“Well, you see–”

“Do you make a good living, Doctor?”

“I can’t complain.”

“Tell me something: why did you want me to see the letter?”

“Because the murder put everything in a whole new light. I thought it might be useful to the investigation.”

“Well, it’s not,” Montalbano said calmly. “Take it back and treasure it always. Do you have any children, Doctor?”

“A son, Calogerino. Four years old.”

“I hope you never need him for anything.”

“Why?” asked Dr. Antonino Lapècora, bewildered.”

“Because, if he’s his father’s son, you’re screwed, sir.”

“How dare you!”

“If you’re not out of my sight in ten seconds, I’ll have you arrested for the first thing I can think of.”

The doctor fled so quickly he knocked over the chair he’d been sitting on.

The library has DVD’s of the BBC series featuring Montalbano, but for now I’ll stick with the books.

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