2015 Reading Challenge – Book #16 – The Voice of the Violin

Book #16 – A mystery or thriller – The Voice of the Violin by Andrea Camilleri (translated into English by Stephen Sartarelli
Genre: Mystery/Crime
Published: 1997 in Italian, translated into English in 2003
Country: Italy
Book to Movie/TV Adaptation: Adapted for television since 1999

This book review is long, long, long overdue. I started reading this translated book over two months ago and abandoned it twice before finally picking it up again a few days ago to finish reading it.

The Voice of the Violin is the fourth to be published in the Inspector Montalbano series set in the fictional Sicilian town of Vigàta and the plot begins when Inspector Salvo Montalbano discovers the naked body of a young woman lying face-down in her bed in a house. Suspicion naturally falls on several of her acquaintances and friends.

The book starts off really well with the action happening in the first chapter itself. Since the events are slightly fast-paced, the writing isn’t too overly detailed which helps the story stay on track. The matter-of-fact style in which this book is written gives a broader overview of all that’s happening in the protagonist’s (Montalbano’s) life. Without wasting any more words than are absolutely necessary on the descriptions of physical looks or giving undue importance to aesthetics, you are given a sense of the places and characters’ personalities and what does or doesn’t make them tick. For instance, throughout the book, we get the sense that Montalbano is quite the temperamental man – mostly gruff, insulting and reckless on the outside, but with a certain level of sensitivity to his credit. He is certainly not perfect and some of his mistakes have led to huge consequences. You are also shown – mostly through snappy, well-written dialogue – Montalbano’s dynamics with the people around him which include his long-distance girlfriend Livia, Francois who is the little boy he and Livia wish to adopt, his superiors and his subordinates. He even has a true Italian love affair with his food judging from the handful of meal descriptions provided by Camilleri.

Although it has its merits, I wouldn’t say it is the best mystery I have read because halfway through the book, I started to lose some of my interest. Montalbano had a lot of personal and professional problems going on which seemed to distract him from the case. I also felt I had to have read the previous three books for me to understand some of his relationships in better detail. Montalbano was intuitive but also quite impulsive and not too thorough in his investigation. He did not seem to be asking the right questions at the right time or investigating things thoroughly which would have moved the case forward in a more efficient way. He had his own tricks up his sleeves which he played around with recklessly when he felt it was time. I know that’s just the way his character is written, but it was a bit frustrating at some points because as a reader, I felt I was being swept away by the story instead of being guided logically forward as is the case in most whodunnits where you are laid all the bare facts of the case and left to make your own assumptions. However, what bugged me most was that the most important piece of the jigsaw puzzle that held the key to the mystery was given away quite openly in the blurb at the back of the book but by the time Montalbano figured it out, 200 pages had already gone by with only 40 odd pages to go!

Although the book did have a certain hook to it, I wasn’t really convinced by how quickly it moved and wrapped up at the end. Even though it just didn’t seem like a whodunnit in its truest sense of the word, the book had its own charm and Camilleri certainly has a very unique talent for storytelling.

Book Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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