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    Review of THE TERRA-COTTA DOG by Andrea Camilleri (see his website)


    Penguin Books, 2003 (Italian original 1996)

    A Mafia leader wants out, but he has a job you don't just quit. Working with Sicilian Police Inspector Salvo Montalbano, Gaetano The Greek arranges a complex capture fantasy. The capture works, giving Montalbano more publicity than he wants and the threat of a feared promotion, but Gaetano also tells him of a cave where the Mafia hide a huge weapons cache. Montalbano investigates and finds both the weapons and an older and more complicated mystery. Two mummified bodies lie in a hidden cavern, accompanied by a water pitcher, a terra-cotta dog, and a rug. The meaning of the intwined lovers fascinates Montalbano and he virtually drops the Mafia investigation to discover what could have happened to the dead couple.

    Montalbano is a fascinating and well developed character. He lives by his own moral code, pursues an ambiguous relationship with Livia, and seems to appreciate good food more than he does either women or the law. His investigation combines literary allusion, hard-core detecting, a history lesson, and intriguing mentions of the food Montalbano finds himself enjoying.

    In THE TERRA-COTTA DOG, author Andrea Camilleri (see more reviews of novels by Camilleri) has a wonderful and moving story. Much of the story kept me laughing, but Camilleri maintains a darker subtext. The Mafia and Italian corruption and violence, both in the Fascist days and in the present, are an ever-present reality and form much of the story's background.

    I found the story to be completely compelling and recommend it without reservation.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 2/07/04

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