This latest Inspector Montalbano story is the one the racists do not like. It is sympathetic towards refugees, who are shown as human beings facing hardship and tragedy, rather than as an alien “threat” to be feared or hated.
Author Andrea Camilleri has often sprinkled his Montalbano books with social comments from his left-leaning perspective — for example, targeting the links between big business, corrupt politicians and the Mafia.
But this time he wears his heart on his sleeve even more explicitly than usual by conveying a strong anti-racist message.
Although the first third of the book revolves around refugees, the second two thirds centres on a more mainstream murder mystery.
This “whodunnit” plot is nothing out of the ordinary, but the book is still well worth reading for the usual humour and the familiar portrayal of Montalbano’s endearingly quirky personality and his relationship with his team. In the TV version we also get the wonderful Sicilian scenery.
I am a great fan of Montalbano, but not an uncritical one. A few of the books have not been up to the usual high standard. For example, a couple of the stories have felt like he was going through the motions; a couple have contained themes or scenes which were too dark or distasteful for my liking; and a couple have contained irritating paranormal incidents. But this book is certainly one of the good ones.
Camilleri is now sadly deceased. But I believe there are still a couple of his Montalbano books waiting to be translated into English by the excellent Stephen Sartarelli. We still have those to look forward to. And I will, in any case, continue to enjoy rereading many of the series.
If you haven’t yet read any of Camilleri’s books, and if you like the idea of detective stories told with humour and with a left wing undercurrent, then The Other End of the Line would be a good place for you to start.