The plot of The Overnight Kidnapper will puzzle most readers and keep them guessing to the end.
Andrea Camilleri's The Overnight Kidnapper.
This is the 21st Inspector Montalbano mystery novel. Those with an appetite to follow their hero, together with millions of other readers in more than 30 languages, will not be disappointed. Perhaps it is the way things are done in Sicily, but Montalbano, in spite of constant involvement with criminals, is a charming, likeable individual. He loves good food and is a hearty eater. He is still fit enough for his job but at times wishes he were 20 years younger. The atmosphere between him and his offsiders is cooperative and easy-going, even when they tease him about his advancing years. Only his fraught relationship with his boss, ‘His Honour the Commissioner’, resembles the relationship of senior police officers with their political masters in many other crime novels, and perhaps in reality.
Montalbano deserves a place among the greats, along with, among others, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Elizabeth George’s Inspector Linley and Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus. Although, unlike these three, Montalbano is willing to resort to trickery to ensnare a villain. He does not always get everything right, nor does he always stick strictly to the truth, and he can be forgetful – all human frailties which add to his congeniality. Is his character as deeply drawn as Rebus? No, but then Rebus is an exception. Sales volumes are a good indicator of popularity and, to a lesser extent, of quality. Available records put Camilleri and Rankin’s book sales in the same astronomic league.
The plot of The Overnight Kidnapper will puzzle most readers and keep them guessing to the end. The clues are there, the red herrings abound, but only the most astute reader will beat Montalbano to the punch. Of course, with the action taking place in Sicily, it makes it inevitable that the Mafia gets a mention though that does not necessarily mean they are involved.
The dialogue throughout is well executed except in the case of Montalbano’s switchboard operator and receptionist, Catarella. What he says is difficult to read because of how Catarella’s manner of speaking is portrayed:
’E said ’at seein’ as how an’ considerin’ ’e cou’n’t talk t’yiz poissonally in poisson, he’s gonna write yiz a litter.'
Such use of phonetic dialogue is thankfully confined to this man.
Camilleri uses humour, descriptions of food, and incisive comments on people to lighten the narrative, such as what he has to say about a banker who, armed with ‘a smile one needed sunglasses to look at’, comes to talk to Montalbano:
'It is clear he was destined for the sort of brilliant career common to so many of today’s executives: a rapid ascent . . . arrival at the top, immediate crash of the stock value of the company, bank, or whatever it was, disappearance of said executive, and reappearance, one year later, of same executive in a position of even greater importance.'
In an author’s note Camilleri mentions that the plot of The Overnight Kidnapper did not grow out of a news story, unlike many other of Montalbano’s cases. However, the people that populate this story, such as the banker referred to above, are taken from real life, and many readers will recognise people they know, and perhaps themselves, as they read this enjoyable mystery.
4 ½ stars ★★★★☆
The Overnight Kidnapper
By Andrea Camilleri
5 February 2019
Penguin Random House