The Patience of the Spider by Andrea Camilleri

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The Patience of the Spider by Andrea Camilleri

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The eighth book in the Montalbano series has a less-complex plot than earlier - and later - books but is still an excellent read for the pleasure of the character development and the insight into Sicilian life. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 280 Date: June 2008
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-0330442244

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Inspector Silvan Montalbano is on enforced sick leave as a result of an injury sustained on his last case. His girlfriend, Livia, has taken time off work to look after him, but the kidnap of a local girl forces Montalbano back into harness. Susanna Mistretta is a student at Palermo University and she disappeared on her way home one night. Her moped is found not far from her home but her helmet is some way away in one direction and her backpack in the other. She lived at home with her parents and, sadly, her mother is dying. Will Susanna be released whilst her mother is still alive? In fact, will Susanna be released alive?

It says a great deal for Camilleri's writing that I worked out who had done what and why quite early on in the story, but it didn't matter in the slightest. This is the eighth book in the series and possibly the least complex in terms of plot, but the pleasure of the series lies not just in the solution to the mystery but in the manner of Montalbano's getting to the answer. Along the way you'll have a picture of Sicilian life – the politics, the landscape, the food and the attitudes. I struggle to think of many other places where opprobrium would fall not on the kidnappers of a young woman but on the person who could pay the ransom demand but hasn't.

The relationship with Livia is skilfully handled. Sometimes it seems that she means more to Montalbano when she's unreachable and she, in turn, obviously values her independence. They're pulled together but drawn apart. The character who appealed to me most was Susanna Mistretta, particularly as most of what we hear of her comes through third parties. Montalbano's confused by the ever-growing cast of uncles, bothers, nephews and nieces – plus a boyfriend – but they each appear fully-formed on the page. Camilleri has the ability to develop character in remarkably few words, and it never seems to let him down.

With these books it's always worth looking at the notes provided by the translator, Stephen Sartarelli, at the end as they illuminate Montalbano's thoughts on life and Italian politics in particular. As ever Sartarelli's translation is to be commended. It's difficult to imagine, as you read, that this book could have been written in anything other than English. One of Montalbano's assistants has a rather eccentric use of language and the quality of the translation is perhaps best demonstrated by saying that the English could be corny and rather annoying, but isn't. It's not just gigglingly funny - it's gigglingly funny every time that Catarella appears.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

This book contains a slight spoiler for the previous book in the series – Rounding the Mark – insomuch as you will know what happened to Montalbano at the end of that book. Whilst all the books can be read as stand-alone novels there's an added dimension if you read them in the order in which they were written as you'll benefit from seeing the character of Montalbano – and his relationships – develop. Start with The Shape of Water and move on from there. None of the books are lengthy reads and it wouldn't take long to read all the nine books currently published in translation.

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Buy The Patience of the Spider by Andrea Camilleri at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Patience of the Spider by Andrea Camilleri at

Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano Books in Chronological Order


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