The Snack Thief (Inspector Montalbano Series #3)by Andrea Camilleri, Stephen Sartarelli
In the third book in Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series, the urbane and perceptive Sicilian detective exposes a viper's nest of government corruption and international intrigue in a compelling new case. When an elderly man is stabbed to death in an elevator and a crewman on an Italian fishing trawler is machine-gunned by a Tunisian patrol boat off Sicily's coast, only Montalbano suspects the link between the two incidents. His investigation leads to the beautiful Karima, an impoverished housecleaner and sometime prostitute, whose young son steals other schoolchildren's midmorning snacks. But Karima disappears, and the young snack thief's life—as well as Montalbano's—is on the line...
Read an Excerpt
He woke up in a bad way. The sheets, during the sweaty, restless sleep that had followed his wolfing down three pounds of sardines a beccafico the previous evening, had wound themselves tightly round his body, making him feel like a mummy. He got up, went into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and guzzled half a bottle of cold water. As he was drinking, he glanced out the wide-open window.The dawn light promised a good day. The sea was flat as a table, the sky clear and cloudless. Sensitive as he was to the weather, Montalbano felt reassured as to his mood in the hours to come. As it was still too early, he went back to bed and readied himself for two more hours of slumber, pulling the sheet over his head. He thought, as he always did before falling asleep, of Livia lying in her bed in Boccadasse, outside of Genoa. She was a soothing presence, propitious to any journey, long or short, "in country sleep," as Dylan Thomas had put it in a poem he liked very much.
No sooner had the journey begun when it was interrupted by the ringing of the telephone. Like a drill, the sound seemed to enter one ear and come out the other, boring through his brain.
"Whoozis I'm speaking with?"
"Tell me first who you are."
"This is Catarella."
"What's the matter?"
"Sorry, Chief, I din't rec'nize your voice as yours. You mighta been sleeping."
"I certainly might have, at five in the morning! Would you please tell me what the hell is the matter without busting my balls any further?"
"Somebody was killed in Mazàra del Vallo."
"What the fuck is that to me? I'm in Vigàta."
"But, Chief, the dead guy-"
Montalbano hung up and unplugged the phone. Before shutting his eyes he thought maybe his friend Valente, vice-commissioner of Mazàra, was looking for him. He would call him later, from his office.
The shutter slammed hard against the wall. Montalbano sat bolt upright in bed, eyes agape with fright, convinced, in the haze of sleep still enveloping him, that he'd been shot at. In the twinkling of an eye, the weather had changed: a cold, humid wind was kicking up waves with a yellowish froth, the sky now entirely covered with clouds that threatened rain.
Cursing the saints, he got up, went into the bathroom, turned on the shower, and lathered himself up. All at once the water ran out. In Vigàta, and therefore also in Marinella, where he lived, water was distributed roughly every three days. Roughly, because there was no way of knowing whether you would have water the very next day or the following week. For this reason Montalbano had taken the precaution of having several large tanks installed on the roof of his house, which would fill up when water was available. This time, however, there had apparently been no new water for eight days, for that was the maximum autonomy granted him by his reserves. He ran into the kitchen, put a pot under the faucet to collect the meager trickle that came out, and did the same in the bathroom sink. With the bit of water thus collected, he somehow managed to rinse the soap off his body, but the whole procedure certainly didn't help his mood.
While driving to Vigàta, yelling obscenities at all the motorists to cross his path-whose only use for the Highway Code, in his opinion, was to wipe their asses with it, one way or another-he remembered Catarella's phone call and the explanation he'd come up with for it, which didn't make sense. If Valente had needed him for some homicide that took place in Mazàra, he would have called him at home, not at headquarters. He had concocted that explanation for convenience's sake, to unburden his conscience and sleep for another two hours in peace.
"There's absolutely nobody here!" Catarella told him as soon as he saw him, respectfully rising from his chair at the switchboard. Montalbano had decided, with Sergeant Fazio's agreement, that this was the best place for him. Even with his habit of passing on the wildest, most unlikely phone calls, he would surely do less damage there than anywhere else.
"What is it, a holiday?"
"No, Chief, it's not a holiday. They're all down at the port because of that dead guy in Mazàra I called you about, if you remember, sometime early this morning or thereabouts."
"But if the dead guy's in Mazàra, what are they all doing at the port?"
"No, Chief, the dead guy's here."
"But, Jesus Christ, if the dead guy's here, why the hell are you telling me he's in Mazàra?"
"Because he was from Mazàra. That's where he worked."
"Cat, think for a minute, so to speak . . . or whatever it is that you do: if a tourist from Bergamo was killed here in Vigàta, what would you tell me? That somebody was killed in Bergamo?"
"Chief, the point is, this dead guy was just passing through. I mean, they shot him when he was on a fishing boat from Mazàra."
"Who shot him?"
"The Tunisians did, Chief."
Montalbano gave up, demoralized.
"Did Augello also go down to the port?"
His second-in-command, Mimì Augello, would be delighted if he didn't show up at the port.
"Listen, Cat I have to write a report. I'm not in for anyone."
"Hello, Chief? I got Signorina Livia on the line here from Genoa.
What do I do, Chief? Should I put her on or not?"
"Put her on."
"Since you said, not ten minutes ago, that you wasn't in for nobody-"
"I said put her on, Cat . . . Hello, Livia? Hi."
"Hi, my eye. I've been trying to call you all morning. The phone at your house just rings and rings."
"Really? I guess I forgot to plug it back in. You want to hear something funny? At five o'clock this morning, I got a phone call about-"
"I don't want to hear anything funny. I tried calling at seven-thirty, at eight-fifteen, I tried again at-"
"Livia, I already told you I forgot-"
"You forgot me, that's what you forgot. I told you yesterday I was going to call you at seven-thirty this morning to decide whether-"
"Livia, I'm warning you. It's windy outside and about to rain."
"You know what. This kind of weather puts me in a bad mood. I wouldn't want my words to be-"
"I get the picture. I just won't call you anymore. You call me, if you feel like it."
"Montalbano! How are you? Officer Augello told me everything. This is a very big deal, one that will certainly have international repercussions. Don't you think?"
He felt at sea. He had no idea what the commissioner was talking about. He decided to be generically affirmative.
"Oh, yes, yes."
"Anyway, I've arranged for Augello to confer with the prefect. The matter is, how shall I say, beyond my competence."
"Are you feeling all right, Montalbano?"
"Yes, fine. Why?"
"Nothing, it just seemed . . ."
"Just a slight headache, that's all."
"What day is today?" "Thursday, sir." "Listen, why don't you come to dinner at our house on Saturday? My wife'll make you her black spaghetti in squid ink. It's delicious." Pasta with squid ink. His mood was black enough to dress a hundred pounds of spaghetti. International repercussions?
Fazio came in and Montalbano immediately laid into him.
"Would somebody please be so kind as to tell me what the fuck is going on?"
"C'mon, Chief, don't take it out on me just because it's windy outside. For my part, early this morning, before contacting Inspector Augello, I had somebody call you."
"You mean Catarella? If you have Catarella calling me about something important, then you really must be a shithead, since you know damn well that nobody can ever understand a fucking thing the guy says. What happened, anyway?"
"A motor trawler from Mazàra, which according to the ship's captain was fishing in international waters, was attacked by a Tunisian patrol boat. Sprayed with machine-gun fire. The fishing boat signaled its position to one of our patrols, the Fulmine, then managed to escape."
"Good going," said Montalbano.
"On whose part?" asked Fazio.
"On the part of the captain of the fishing boat, who instead of surrendering had the courage to run away. What else?"
"The shots killed one of the crew."
"Somebody from Mazàra?"
"Would you please explain?"
"He was Tunisian. They say his working papers were in order. Down around Mazàra all the crews are mixed. First of all because they're good workers, and secondly because, if they're ever stopped, they can talk to the patrols from the other side."
"Do you believe the trawler was fishing in international waters?"
"Me? Do I look like a moron or something?"
from The Snack Thief: An Inspector Montalbano Mystery by Andrea Camilleri, Copyright © 2003 by Andrea Camilleri, Published by Viking Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Meet the Author
Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano mystery series, bestsellers in Italy and Germany, has been adapted for Italian television and translated into German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Japanese, Dutch, and Swedish. He lives in Rome.
Stephen Sartarelli lives in upstate New York.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Montalbano eats too much sea food. Other than that, he, along with the rest of Camilleri's creations, never disappoint. Good fun.
*pushes past the cats so she can take floodkit home.*
Claws silvers face
Whimpers as shes carried home and is bleeding heavily..mbut isnt dead
If multiculturalism is not a dirty word to you, and you are from an English speaking background, then this book might be of interest. You can soak up the ambience of other societies, in the format of a fictional narrative. As contrasted perhaps to reading a dry sociology text. The backdrop of the book is complicated. Set in Sicily, it depicts the interleaving of Italian, Arab and French cultures. The plotline has these intricately entangled, due to geography and history. Plus, there are allusions to the different Italian regions and the concomitant stereotypes. For example, the hero is Sicilian, but his girlfriend is Ligurian. At one point, he contrasts their backgrounds in a brief remark. An Italian would catch these immediately, based on her background. But for me, and possibly for you too, these remain opaque. An analogy might be familiar to you. Think of the various British regional demotics: The dour Scot, the garrulous, overfriendly Cockney, the bloody minded Yorkshireman. Please understand that I do not say these are at all correct, or that I agree with them. But if you are British or American, these should be known to you. Well, something similar is going on in this novel.
This book was a very interesting read. It kept me on the edge of my seat for hours. I finished it in one day! Andrea knows how to write a mystery.
After reading The Terra Cotta Dog, I was hooked, but this book hooked me even more. Camillieri's writing flows well and evenly. Ideas aren't choppy, and the effect of writing from different angles makes the book glow even more. I love the fact that food, as it should, is never EVER overlooked. This book will not let you down.
"LOL POWERPLAY MUCH? K. INKY JUST PRETEND THEY NEVE TOUCHED YOU, DUMBB**CH AINT BEIN FAIR."
At about the same time a Tunisian patrol boat kills a worker on an Italian fishing trawler, an unknown assailant stabs to death a retiree, Mr. Lapecora, in the elevator of his apartment building. Montalbano is assigned the local homicide while his Lady Macbeth-like ambitious superior Mimi Augello takes ¿public¿ charge of the international incident. Montalbano seeks Mr. Lapecora's house cleaner, Karima, who supplements her income with prostitution and the lady¿s son. When the Inspector catches up to the lad, he begins to understand the elevator homicide and it¿s surprisingly link to the trawler killing. Though warned to stay out of the Tunisian murder by both sides of the law and others, Montalbano digs deep into cases filled with government corruption packed tighter than a can of sardines. Even though this is a translation from the original Italian, fans of police procedurals will appreciate this tight sans Mafia Sicilian mystery. The story line never slows down as the hero investigates one crime that takes him to the second murder and much more. Montalbano is a delightful protagonist who sub-genre readers will want to follow. Hopefully more of Andrea Camilleri¿s novels are translated into English rather quickly or many Anglo-speaking fans will learn Italian rather soon. Harriet Klausner