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The Pyramid of Mud

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Pyramid of Mud (2014/2018) Andrea Camilleri translated by Stephen Sartarelli

Book 22 of the Inspector Montalbano series.

At the end of a Beam of Light, Montalbano receives a shock that causes him pain and apparently put Livia into a great depression. Because of the strange publishing of the Montalbano books, this was two novels ago. So I had almost forgotten why Livia was in such a dark place. Apparently I need to find the *Italian* publication order, which I already knew was not the same as the American publication order.

It has been raining seemingly forever, and everything is mud.

The previous evening the inspector had heard a scientist on television say that all of Italy was in danger of suffering a gigantic geological disaster, because it had never had a government willing to undertake any serious maintenance of the land. In short, it was as if a homeowner had never taken the trouble to repair a leaky roof or some damaged foundations, and then was surprised and complained when his house collapsed one day on top of him.

Maybe this is exactly what we deserve, Montalbano thought bitterly.

This story has what one expects from a Montalbano mystery: murder, confused telephone conversations, complicated conversations with Catarella. But it also has something new: Montalbano’s concerns and worries for Livia.

She seemed to have lost all interest, forgot things, neglected her appearance, was no longer present even to herself.

Now, just hearing how different her voice sounded, Montalbano felt his heart give a tug. The world around him turned gray and a wave of melancholy swept over him.

I very much appreciated this, because in past books I have been unable to understand their relationship. It seemed as if all they did is fight–and Montalbano was not always faithful to her. I didn’t understand why they were together.

Although this doesn’t excuse his philandering, it does show a side to their relationship we hadn’t seen before, and for once you can see why they have remained together, despite everything.

The highlight of this book, for me, was Catarella. He is always amusing, but I love how his character has evolved over the course of the series. Especially the patience Montalbano takes with Catarella that he never takes with anyone else.

“So I made a mistake?”

“You made a mistake.”

Catarella turned first as red as a turkey cock and then as pale as a corpse. “Ohhh, no! A’ss terrible, terrible, jess terrible! Unfergivable! I took the chief the wrong ways!”

Forlorn and on the verge of tears, he buried his face in his hands. The inspector, to keep things from getting any worse, patted him amicably on the back.

“Come on, Cat, don’t take it so hard. A minute more, a minute less, doesn’t make any difference. Chin up. And now take the cell phone and have Fazio explain to you which way we should go.”

Then there is this bit, which I loved.

Walking past Catarella’s closet, he noticed the receptionist was busy trying to solve a crossword puzzle. His brow was furrowed and he was chewing the end of his pencil.

“Need any help?”

“Yeah, Chief. I can’t tink of a woid.”

“What’s the definition?”

“‘ Together with the carabinieri, they pursue killers and thieves and maintain law and order.’”

“How many letters?”

“Six.”

“Police.”

“Are ya sure? I tought o’ that, but then I arased it.”

“Why?”

“When have us police ever woiked t’getter with the carabinieri?”

I’ve read enough books set in Italy to recognize the humor in that–and to appreciate Catarella’s thought process as well.

I’ll be honest, I found the mystery here somewhat confusing at times, possibly since part of the mystery turned on Italian construction companies, and their names. The names were explained in footnotes in the back, but since there aren’t links to the footnotes within the story, I had trouble parsing all the companies and names and why things were they way they were.

Not that the footnotes are not entertaining.

(I)n common Italian parlance, bunga bunga has come to refer to the dubious nature of the former prime minister’s tastes in personal entertainment.

Yet, I still enjoyed the story, mostly because I enjoy reading about Montalbano and Fazio and Catarella.

If you have not read a Montalbano story, this is not the place to start. But the series is enjoyable, and I do recommend it.
Rating: 7/10

Publisher: Penguin Books

Categories: Mystery, Police, Translated     Comments (0)    



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