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la giostra degli scambi

21 march 2016

La giostra degli scambi, the latest full-length Montalbano novel from Andrea Camilleri, is entertaining but not the best-plotted of the series. Our heroes spend too much time talking about why they aren't pursuing obvious leads, and their answers sometimes make little sense except that the story works better if they don't. I don't want to be too hard on Camilleri. He is over 90 now and is still the world's greatest living detective-fiction writer, indeed one of its greatest writers of any kind of book. But I would be spinning a farfanteria if I were to say that La giostra degli scambi was a masterful mystery.

Someone is kidnapping women in Vigáta – and perhaps creepier than kidnapping them for ransom or rape, he's kidnapping them, chloroforming them, and then simply letting them go. But the crimes escalate in still creepier fashion, with the next victim scratched repeatedly all over her body, not deeply but disturbingly.

All cases tend to become the same case in policiers, but this one falls together more mechanically than others. The disappearance of a businessman harassed by the mafia, and even the appearance of a prowler in Montalbano's house (whom the cook Adelina swiftly smacks on the head and ties up in a closet) both tie into the series of kidnappings. Add some financial misbehavior and some sexual jealousy and before long corpses are piling up, too.

Camilleri remarks that the story of La giostra degli scambi is invented, for once not drawn from the faits divers of the newspapers. I think he's done better with prompting from the news over the years, but a few more pages with Catarella and Fazio and Salvo Montalbano himself are always welcome.

Camilleri, Andrea. La giostra degli scambi. Palermo: Sellerio, 2015.