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The Shape of Water (Inspector Montalbano, Book 1) Paperback – May 31, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 146 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Urbane Sicilian police inspector Salvo Montalbano, whose exploits have sold more than four million copies in Europe, makes his long overdue U.S. debut in this spare and spry English translation of the first novel in the series. When two garbage collectors find the body of local politician Silvio Luparello locked in his BMW with his pants down, in "the Pasture," the Vig…ta town dump frequented by whores and drug dealers, the coroner rules that Luparello died of natural causes, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Montalbano refuses to oblige his superiors who want a hasty close to the case, and it will take a corrupt lawyer's murder to break it open. The author's view of Sicily is the all-too-common one of a poor and backward place that many would like to see separated from the rest of Italy. Camilleri's strength lies in his gallery of eccentric characters: Signora Luparello, the victim's admirably cool widow; GegŠ, a pimp and old classmate of Montalbano's; Giosue Contino, an 82-year-old schoolteacher who shoots at people because he thinks his 80-year-old wife is cheating on him; and Anna Ferrara, Montalbano's attractive deputy, "who every now and then, for whatever reason, would try to seduce him." Even the two garbage men have Ph.D.s. The maverick Montalbano doesn't hesitate to destroy clues or extract money from a crook to help a child, but his wrapping up the case by telling rather than showing, while acceptable to European audiences, may disappoint action-oriented American fans.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series, making a belated first appearance in the U.S., has long been a staple of both Italian and German best-seller lists. It's easy to see why: Camilleri captures that special blend of lethargy, cynicism, and reluctant commitment that drives the best fictional Italian cops (e.g., Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen). Salvo Montalbano, police inspector in the small Sicilian town of Vigata, has a potentially explosive case on his plate: a local politician has been found dead in his car, apparently the victim of a heart attack. The position of the politician's pants (around his ankles) and the location of the car (parked in an abandoned field where prostitutes ply their trade) suggest that the victim may have died in flagrante delicto. Higher-ups want the embarrassing case closed quickly, but Montalbano smells a setup. Unlike many European cops dealing with the horrors of modernity, Montalbano is no melancholic brooder; rather, he puts a comic face on the noir world, sorting through multiple layers of corruption Sicilian style while still finding time to enjoy a good lunch. Keep the translations coming--and quickly. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142004715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142004715
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrea Camilleri is the author of the spectacularly successful Montalbano mystery series and many other novels set in nineteenth-century Sicily. His Montalbano novels have been made into an Italian TV series.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Andrea Camilleri's "The Shape of Water" is the first in a series of Inspector Montalbano mysteries, only recently translated to English. I wasn't sure what to expect but was pleasantly surprised by interesting characters, a mystery I didn't figure out in advance, and a protaganist with many layers, who is serious, intelligent, self-depracating, and quite funny!
The story begins with the discovery by 2 garbagemen of a local politician, dead in a car, with his pants around his ankles. Detective work in Sicily is quite different than what you would expect in the US. But Inspector Montalbano performs his job largely independent of supervision and is fairly free to follow up in whatever way he pleases.
The pace is relaxed, and the book does not have your typical action-adventure style. Everything is revealed in a very matter of fact style in a storytelling manner, rather than one action scene to the next. Not to worry though, there are plenty of questions to be answered here, and Montalbano gets to them in his own good time. He manages to fit in a love interest, and some fantastic gourmet food as he goes about his days. His gastronomic interests are amusing in themselves.
I don't want to go on about the story itself here, it might spoil the surprises for the readers. Suffice to say this was a very enjoyable read, with plenty of plot twists, that will make you want to read the rest of the series. Highly recommended to mystery lovers.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you read the publisher's review you'll get a really good idea about what this book is about. So, should you read it? Yes. And who am I to say you should? Why should you read this? Do you like mysteries? Have you been looking for something a little different but still interesting, intriguing perhaps? Do you like you're protaganist's to be down to earth, humanely defective, but intelligent and with a sense of good taste? And I do mean a sense of taste for the finer foods in life. Inspector Montalbano is one cool cop with a few ticks that make him intriguingly funny and obtuse. This novel is witty and has a few new twists that are different from American/English writers. At first you may find that this novel "reads" a little differently from what you're used to. The names of people and places in Sicily may be a little overwhelming too at first, but don't give up! Read on! The story is so good that you'll find yourself reading it and the names and the different style will become a pleasant experience that may just lead you to read more of this great Italian writer, Andrea Camillera. I rated it 4 stars instead of 5, because having read the next two in the series, "The Terra-Cotta Dog" and "The Snack Thief", which are both 5 stars to me, this one was good but not as good. But it's a good book and a good introduction into the world of Andrea Camillera's sleuth, Inspector Salvo Montalbano. Highly entertaining. Try it, you'll like it.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
In the American detective novel such as the Maltese Falcon oftentimes the hero is just as bad as the thugs he fights against and resorts to what we would call evil to achieve his ends. In The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri we have an altogether different animal. While retaining some of the facets of the hardboiled crime novel, it also lightens the atmosphere and incredibly features an honest and moral man as its protaganist.
Salvo Montalbano, the police inspector for the small Sicilian town of Vigata, is deeply respected by his community for his honesty and fairness. That is doubly important since there is corruption in all levels of the Italian government. He is very likable. He doesn't cheat on his girlfriend, he does good deeds, and he's also pretty intelligent, sometimes even discussing literature with other officers in the know. Not exactly the cold-blooded killer we see in America. What a breath of freshness this is!
Hold on, dont think that this is some nice cub scout book to be read to children. As the novel opens, two garbagemen find the body of Silvio Lupanello, chief political figure in Vigata. They find him dead in a car in the Pasture, a local name for an area known for its drug and prostitution activity. One of them finds a valuable necklace on the ground and conceals it from the police.
Salvo is called in to investigate the scene. I hesitate to say crime scene because it is not known whether any crime has been comitted. The rumors begin to spread that it was foul play. The problem for the inspector is that he wants to know the truth, wherever it leads him. Even it ends up sullying the plans of the political elite.
This was a good book. It was so refreshing to get a new perspective on a detective novel.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this particular book in about 3 sittings, and had to stay up late to finish, just because I could see how it was ending, but needed to tie up the loose ends.
Montalbano is a great character, complex background, cool attitude, good occasional wise-crack. As others have said, the Sicilian way of life is well-presented, as are various Italian and Italy references that may be lost on someone who isn't familiar with either (glossary in the back). But for the most part, you can get by not knowing exactly all of it.
There's no way you can't know what "Shape of Water" means if you have read the book...it's defined in a conversation between two central characters. To disclose it here would ruin the storyline.
Having read many European authors, I can see why this author is all the rage in Europe. Book Magazine rated this one of the best mysteries of 2002, and I tend to agree. My only complaints are that it was too short, and too fast of a read!
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