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hunting season

28 march 2016

Andrea Camilleri says that his novel Hunting Season may remind the reader of Kind Hearts and Coronets. It reminded me more of The Bride Wore Black. The main difference is whether you find its humor absurd or sardonic. It's a serial-killer story either way.

It's 1880, and Fofò La Matina returns to Vigàta, town of his birth, to set up shop as a pharmacist. His father had been killed there long before by some bad men. As soon as the pharmacist arrives, people start dying in Vigàta: lots of them, all related somehow to the noble family of the Marchese Peluso.

It doesn't take Commissario Montalbano to figure out that Fofò is doing away with people – not that Montalbano would be born for another 75 years anyway. And the killing is really just the setting for elaborate descriptions of sexual misbehavior, involving humans, plants, and animals. Sometimes the raunchy stories wear thin. But the two characters who are brought closer and closer by the string of timely deaths – Fofò and the Marchese's daughter 'Ntontò – are sympathetic, innocent young characters, if you overlook all the murder and madness.

Camilleri's books, however absurd their sense of humor, tend to have a philosophical or political edge. Hunting Season is more purely a farce. It's worth reading as a chapter in the violent and crazy backstory to Camilleri's beloved fictional home town.

Camilleri, Andrea. Hunting Season. [La stagione della caccia, 1992.] Translated by Stephen Sartarelli. New York: Penguin, 2014.