It should have been a match made in heaven. Murder mysteries are one of my favorite genres. Italy is one of my favorite places on earth. And Sicily is just paradise if you happen to like the same kinds of places that I do.
And yet something failed to click.
The Age of Doubt is a book by Andrea Camilleri in the Inspector Montalbano series. I had seen the Montalbano series on TV a few years ago, and the series hadn’t really caught my attention (I’m much less of a series watcher than I am a series reader), but this was my first exposure to the author’s writing.
I was unimpressed, mainly because, unlike Fred Vargas’ Adamsberg, I found the inspector to be utterly annoying in his insecurity and strangely adolescent (or perhaps even pre-teen-girl-like) in his emotional responses to pretty much everything going on around him.
At first, I was tempted to blame the translator, as I wasn’t terribly impressed with the prose even before encountering the emotional issues, but once I saw how childishly emotions were rendered, I’m giving the translator a pass. For all I know, this is a faithful rendering of the original Italian (I can read Italian, but not well enough to judge prose quality, unfortunately).
These are small irritants, of course. The overall review of this book is that it’s an interesting murder mystery with a melodramatic ending. I personally found the Inspector’s emotional inner monologue to be an irritant, but others obviously enjoy it.
This series can’t be dismissed, as the late Gardner Dozois famously did every year to the even later Martin H. Greenbergs’ anthologies, as “pleasant but minor”, as it is already a worldwide bestselling publishing phenomenon. So I’ll limit myself to saying that I prefer my investigators to have different neuroses, treated differently, and leave it at that. If you prefer a touch of overwrought melodrama, this might be just the series for you.
In my opinion, there are better crime novels among the millions of options out there. Your mileage may vary.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose crime novel Timeless is a fast-paced, sexy thriller. You can buy it here.