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Ever since I read about Italian author Andrea Camilleri on A Common Reader’s blog, I’ve wanted to read a mystery written by him. Although the novel Tom reviewed was The Age of Doubt, I found The Potter’s Field at our local library and brought it home to make Andrea’s acquaintance.

I like him! His writing is so authentic, and rugged, and unpretentious. He takes me to Italy as easily as Air Italia, where I am breathing in the sea air and eating the cuisine as surely as if I was there in person. In fact, I enjoyed the atmosphere he created possibly more than the plot, which in The Potter’s Field involved the Mafia, a beautiful woman and betrayal. Wonderful stuff for any mystery, let alone an Italian one.

“Meanwhile, this murder had been committed, or ordered–which amounted to the same thing–by someone who still operated in observance of the rules of the ‘old’ Mafia.

The answer was simple: Because the new Mafia fired their guns pell-mell and in every direction, at old folks and kids, wherever and whenever, and never deigned to give a reason or explanation for what they did.

With the old Mafia, it was different. They explained, informed, and clarified. Not aloud, of course, or in print. No. But through signs.

The old Mafia were experts in semiology, the science of signs used to communicate. Murdered with a thorny branch of prickly pear placed on the body? We did it because he pricked us one too many times with his thorns and troubles. Murdered with a rock inside his mouth? We did it because he talked too much. Murdered with both hands cut off? We did because we caught him with his hands in the cookie jar. Murdered with his balls shoved into his mouth? We did it because he was f***ing someone he shouldn’t have been…” and so on.

And, the characters are so likable! One absolutely wants to know Inspector Montalbano, and I especially want to meet Catarella, personally in person, who works for him and talks like this:

“Ahhh Chief Chief!” said Catarella, racing out of his closet, “I gots a litter f”yiz I’s asposta give yiz poissonally in poisson.”

Looking around himself with a conspiratorial air, he pulled an envelope out of his pocket and handed it to the inspector.

If this book is any indication of the series, it’s one I want to become more familiar with. I liked everything I read in Camilleri’s work.

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