Camilleri, Andrea - 'The Age of Doubt' (translated by Stephen Sartarelli)
Inspector Salvo Montalbano of the Vigata, Sicily police continues to have his mid-life crisis (though he is now 58) in his latest outing, plagued by dreams of insecurity and terminally undecided about his (mainly telephonic) relationship with his girlfriend Livia. On his way to work in a dreadful rainstorm, the road collapses, causing a massive traffic jam of mud and furious Italian drivers. Calling for help from a colleague, Montalbano realises that the first car in the queue is in danger of slipping down into a mass of water, so he takes the driver with him to the station so she can dry out and wait until the road is fixed.
Vanna, as the woman is called, is an introverted character who gradually tells Montalbano why she's in the region: she's going to visit a yacht owned by her aunt that is moored in the harbour, also called Vanna. The next day, the police hear of a gruesome discovery - that of a dead man in a dinghy, spotted by the Vanna's crew. Mysteriously, the human Vanna has disappeared, leaving Montalbano completely puzzled.
The police attempt to find the identity of the dead man and to trace his last movements. At the same time, Montalbano becomes completely smitten with a naval lieutenant at the harbour; she, too, at first seems equally bowled away by Montalbano but her role in the plot becomes increasingly ambiguous and erratic. After many romantic and nautical interludes, as well as some humorous byplay between Montalbano and his hated superiors, the case eventually comes into focus and all is resolved in a somewhat hasty climax. THE AGE OF DOUBT is very much a book for those who already know and enjoy Camilleri's series. It would not be a good introduction for new readers as the book depends on our knowledge of well-established characters and the detection elements are somewhat perfunctory. Because of its focus on Montalbano's continual agonising between Livia and other women, I would say that it isn't one of the strongest of the series. Nevertheless, there is plenty of Camilleri's trademark humour and charm to please his fans, and of course the able translation of Stephen Sartarelli enhances the whole.
Maxine Clarke, England