Montalbano opened the door to step out. But Gallo held him back, putting one hand on his arm. ‘What’s in there, Chief?’ ‘If it’s what I think, it’s something so horrific that it’ll haunt your dreams for the rest of your life . . .’ When a crazed elderly man and his sister begin firing bullets from their balcony down onto the Vigata street below, Inspector Montalbano finds himself a reluctant television hero. A few days later, when a letter arrives containing a mysterious riddle, the Inspector becomes drawn into a perplexing treasure hunt set by an anonymous challenger. As the hunt intensifies, Montalbano is relieved to be offered the assistance of Arturo Pennisi, a young man eager to witness the detective’s investigative skills first hand. Fending off meddling commissioners and his irate girlfriend, Livia, the inspector will follow the treasure hunt’s clues and travel from Vigata’s teeming streets to its deserted outskirts: where an abandoned house overlooks a seemingly bottomless lake. But when a horrifying crime is committed, the game must surely be laid aside. And it isn’t long before Montalbano himself will be in terrible danger . . .

If anyone was to ask what books would accompany me to a desert island, the entire Montalbano series to date would be a strong contender. There is something about the quality of Camilleri’s writing that there is always some slight nuance or unexpected event that catches you off-guard, revealing to the reader another facet to the character of the remarkable Inspector Montalbano. Indeed, with each new book Camilleri admirably deceives us, as these tales combine in the reader a sense of the comfortably familiar, but equally he delights in  intentionally unsettling us by the intervention of some strange, or more usually, hilarious moment that changes the direction of the narrative. So bring on The Treasure Hunt

From the outset, The Treasure Hunt, combines the dark and light elements that Camilleri is renowned for. A couple of elderly religious extremists begin taking pot-shots from their apartment at innocent passers by, resulting in a sudden case of immolation and a need for Montalbano to go, in the words of sidekick Catarella, all ‘Brussi Villesi’ to gain access to said apartment. Confronted with a huge spread of religious icons and the startling inclusion of a bizarre blow-up-doll, Montalbano once again finds himself caught up in a bizarre investigation, further complicated by the arrival of another blow-up-doll (with the inevitable Italian version of ‘Carry-On’ that this produces) and the wilful inclusion of Montalbano in a strange treasure hunt, reflected by the book’s title. Add to this Camilleri’s trademark portrayal of the sights, sounds and culinary aspects of Montalbano’s home turf, the never ending ups and downs of his relationships with both the luscious Livia and Scandinavian temptress Ingrid, Montalbano’s melancholic musings, and the ease and comic touch with which Camilleri immerses us back into the colourful world of his regular troop of characters, and this is once again a book impossible to fault. Another example of the twisted brilliance of Mr Camilleri, and quite simply, una lettura perfetta…

Andrea Camilleri is one of Italy’s most famous contemporary writers. His Montalbano series has been adapted for Italian television and translated into nine languages. He lives in Rome. Stephen Sartarelli is an award-winning translator. He is also the author of three books of poetry, most recently The Open Vault. He lives in France.

(With thanks to Mantle for the ARC)

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