This book is the first in a series by Andrea camilleri, set in Sicily, Italy and centres on the main character inspector montalbano. The lead detective in the fictional town of Vigata, which falls within the city headquarters Of Montelusa – a hot bed of criminal and political influences. Montalbano investigates the death of a prominent businessman that is well “connected” the body has been found at The Pasture under compromising circumstances.
Given the high profile of the deceased the inspector is under immense pressure from everyone on high to close the case quickly, but there is something not quite right with this “death by natural causes” – he has just 48 hours to hurry up and conclude his inquires, and hoping for “that flash of intuition which now and then strikes our policeman” … We then get to meet the many different and eccentric residents of vigata and surrounding areas – which makes this a funny and interesting read for sure.
I don’t know if its because the book was first written in Italian and translated to English, but I found myself taking a moment to enjoy some of the phases that caught my eye, for example … “Magical shamanistic practices” (used to describe how people might have learned about things that only the head of crime labs was to know!).
Or how about “splendid specimen of a nincompoop” (describing the son of the decease’s political rival) – which has a sort of lyrical way about it. Some version of Sicilian Ambic pentameter perhaps?
And the inspector himself has much fun over the word “improcastinable” (used by the the lawyer Rizzo – shady right-hand man to the deceased).. if the word sounds that crazy in English – I wonder what it sounds like in Italian?
And now for the food. I’ve never read a book with the secondary purpose to think about food and what I could possibly cook (level: easy – please and thank-you). The book taking place in seaside vigata, there were many seafood dishes described; shrimps, sea urchin, octopus, striped mullet …. all things I’m willing to taste but not sure I’m ready to try cooking, (well okay I think could handle the shrimp if i tried). Again a particular passage caught my eye, and had an instant connection with the following:
“He served himself an abundant second helping, but when he saw that this one, too, was coming to an end, he slowed down the rhythm of his chewing, to prolong, however briefly, the pleasure that delicacy afforded him.”
I tend to agree.. some food is so good that you almost inhale it, and have to remember to slow down to enjoy it before it’s all gone!
So I happily agreed when my friend, Marla (the one that also convinced me to try this adventure of book cooking and blogging!), suggested we do the cooking together – so we could be a little more adventurous – and since Marla doesn’t do seafood, we decided to make arancini. If you’re not familiar with these, they’re Italian rice balls “fried to a delicate crisp” – just like the inspector’s striped mullet he enjoys at the San Calogero Trattoria in chapter 7. – accompanied by a simple marinara.
Having done a bit of research we also learned that arancini is said to have originated from Sicily back in the 10th century and our dear inspector in later books becomes know for his love of them ….. karma, we should give it a go!
So we hit the grocery store, checked that a fire extinguisher was nearby and began our 4 hour adventure into Italian cooking in her tiny apartment kitchen.. Time consuming yes, but so worth the effort, the risotto alone was fantastic! I hope this cooking adventure might inspire you to give it a try yourself someday soon. The link for the recipe is below.