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The Shape of Water

Andrea Camilleri

In the coastal town of Vigāta, Sicily, two sanitation workers start out early in the morning to clean the littered field that was filled with drug dealers and prostitutes just hours before. In the distance, a large factory, now vacant, is surrounded by a high wall. Around it, the Mediterranean brush almost reaches the shore. There, the workers discover a green BMW, partially covered by shrubs, and in it is the body of local businessman and politician Silvio Luparello.


In this first mystery novel of a series, Sicilian author Andrea Camilleri introduces Salvo Montalbano, a candid, discerning, compassionate, streetwise inspector with a passion for good food and a steadfast commitment to his long-distance relationship.


When the coroner reports that Luparello died of natural causes, and Judge Lo Bianco wishes to close the case, Inspector Montalbano requests “two more days.” He’s suspicious of where Luparello died and how he got there; and although pressured by the judge, a prefect, and a bishop to close the case, Montalbano convinces them that the additional time is needed “out of concern for public opinion.”


In those two days, myriad characters appear – some just briefly – but all so well depicted in their personalities and flaws that they come alive off the pages. With a fast-paced tempo and tight writing, we follow Montalbano as he conducts the investigation in alleyways, seedy apartments, the police station, the scene of the crime, and even his own home. Through it all, we share in his unwavering curiosity to find out why Luparello was murdered and who did it. We also share meals with Montalbano, as Camilleri describes the fresh seafood – sea urchin pulp; striped mullet, baby octopus, boiled shrimp – that is served as the case unravels.


Camilleri infuses his writing with bits and pieces of his life. The town of Vigāta is modeled after his hometown of Porto Empedocle (in the Province of Agrigento), and several buildings in the town have an important presence in the Montalbano series. Camilleri makes many references to author/playwright Luigi Pirandello (also born in the Province of Agrigento). In an early conversation Montalbano has with the commissioner, a quote from Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author is discussed. Pirandello was a friend of the Camilleri family, and Camilleri’s writing is often compared to that of Pirandello’s.


The Shape of Water is one of nine books in the Inspector Montalbano series that has been translated from Italian to English. The tenth English translation, August Heat, will be available in February, 2009. Camilleri adds Sicilian dialect to his writing and the series, translated from Italian – and Sicilian – into eight other languages, including the excellent English translations, has made him an international best selling author.


Camilleri started his career as a screenwriter and director. His first novel was published in 1978, and he began the Inspector Montalbano series in 1994. The popularity of Inspector Montalbano has led to a television series in Italy; and Camilleri’s hometown of Porto Empedocle amended its name to Porto Empedocle Vigāta.


An engrossing quick read, The Shape of Water twists and turns as Montalbano interacts with the characters that surface and become enveloped in a plot with no clear boundaries. As the title implies, the shape of water depends on the vessel that contains it.



Andrea Camilleri Official Web Site (In Italian.)


Camilleri Fans Club


Bio and List of Inspector Montalbano Books


Best of Sicily (Article)


A Virtual Tour of “Vigāta” (Scroll down for photos.)



Š2008 Janice Therese Mancuso

Copyright 2007-2016 Janice Therese Mancuso
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission except when published with this credit: Excerpt from Thirty-One Days of Italians, Š2015 Janice Therese Mancuso.