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una voce di notte

18 january 2013

Una voce di notte was written, Andrea Camilleri reveals in an afterword, "diversi anni fa [several years ago]" (269). He warns against being overly pedantic about the timeline of Commissario Montalbano's life, so I will withdraw my threat to complain about the next Montalbano novel if it didn't advance the story of Salvo's relationship with Livia. Frankly, I'm just glad that the Montalbanos are still appearing. I fear that Camilleri's resorting to one from the trunk is a signal that he's stopped writing new ones. He is eighty-seven years old, after all, and one could accede to a well-earned retirement for him. But I'm spoiled and I want more.

Even if Una voce di notte is a bit of an afterthought, it's an entertaining one. Montalbano and his inspectors face two different cases that present unsettling parallels (even if they never quite converge). In one, the manager of a supermarket that serves as a front for the Mafia is robbed, and then murdered (a killing made to look like suicide). In another, the son of a prominent politician breaks Montalbano's car window with what Sicilians call "'na chiavi 'nglisa" (21): an "English key," that is, a big wrench. Murder soon follows. (Montalbano is neither the victim nor the murderer, you'll be glad to hear, but you get no more out of me.)

The cases are similar: in each, a man of standing fears for his honor, and ultimately for his life. Life and honor are synonymous for the hypocritical movers and shakers of Camilleri's Sicily, though only the appearance of honor really matters. By contrast, Montalbano isn't much interested in honor real or apparent. He wants results, and gets them in Una voce di notte by some pretty reprehensible means.

Or has he just set the Universe aright? It isn't the first time that Montalbano has had to tell himself that he's acting as everybody else's suppressed conscience.

Camilleri, Andrea. Una voce di notte. Palermo: Sellerio, 2012.