Inspector Montalbano, The Voice of the Violin, Collection 1, Episode 2

The Voice of the violin reviewThe Voice of the Violin is number 4 in the Commisario Montalbano series of books, and number 2 of the tv show.

On the way to a funeral, Montalbano and Gallo end up in a crash due to Gallo’s speeding, hitting a stationary car on the side of the road.  They don’t know who owns parked car or house. Following a visit to the hospital, the pair drive back past the house and see the car still sitting there untouched.

Mimi puts Caterella forward for an IT course, which means Caterella is not there for most of the episode, which can be a good thing, as his form of slapstick delivery can get annoying if played too much. Salvo and Livia argue about their wedding and fostering of François . Mimi is off on another case, which means that Salvo doesn’t get to talk things out with him much, either about the case or Livia.
il commisario

Salvo visits the house where they had the crash, and breaks in, finding the naked body of a dead woman in a large room. He returns to visit an elderly lady from the previous episode, Clementina Vasile Cozzo, and gets her to make an anonymous phone call reporting the dead body. Whilst there he meets the old man Barbera from upstairs who is a violinist.

The team visits the house again, formally this time, but because of the location, it’s not their usual forensics team who turn up. Fazio twigs that Salvo has been there before and checks that he wore gloves. The dead woman is Michela, who is/was married to a much older, rich man called Licalzi who knows she has at least one lover: Serravalle, an antiques seller in Bologna.  The Licalzi live elsewhere and she is down to convert the villa, maybe into a hotel.

In investigating her time in Vigata, Montalbano finds her friend Anna, who tells Salvo that Michaela had been stalked by Maurizio  di Blasi, a mentally deficient 31-year-old.

On the personal front, François has chosen to stay with Franca and her family and is worried that Salvo is going to take him away. Livia is not happy when told and claims it is because Salvo doesn’t want to be a father, so they have another argument…..

Salvo is taken off the case by the commissioner  he doesn’t like, and that combined with François makes him grumpy. di Blasi gets arrested by the flying squad only to be killed in the following shootout. With di Blasi dead, Salvo decides to resume the investigation. He hears that the mafia have a witness that claims it didn’t go down as described, and the suspected hand grenade was in fact di Blasi’s shoe.

Salvo visits Panzacchi, captain of flying squad with a video showing that di Blasi wasn’t carrying a grenade. He tells Panzacchi to sort it out as it will bring down Commissioner and the local Judge if the video gets out. The following day Panzacchi resigns and Salvo is back on the case. Fazio and Mimi know there’s more going on they don’t know about, and Galluzzo puts his foot in it by trying to celebrate.

Anna says she saw Michaela with an older man she remembered was a violinist but Michaela didn’t want to talk about it further.  He asks her some further questions, she’s disappointed when he doesn’t make a pass. Realising that the situation is not about sex or love, Salvo goes looking for the money and in going through her papers Salvo realises she’s been fiddling her expenses

Livia pops round, having been to see François , and had been persuaded to talk to Salvo by Mimi, as they have become friends. She’s upset but coming to terms that François doesn’t want to leave Franca and her husband and the situation is not really Salvo’s fault.

Salvo visits maestro Barbera (the violinist he met previously) who confirms he knew Michela and that she had asked him to get a certain violin certified and he had lent her one in return, however not the one that was found in the house when she died. Salvo then begins to piece things together so following the funeral, Salvo visits Serravalle in his hotel suite, puts forward his theory that Serravalle is heavily in debt due to gambling and Michela had been helping him. In desperation, he decides to kill her and steal the violin, not knowing it was the replacement and therefore practically valueless.

Serravalle points out impossible to prove but realises that being arrested by the police is better of two bad options.  Salvo lets him go off on his own to pack his bag, only for a gunshot to ring out….

I read the book after watching the episode several times. The show runs very close to the book, with just a few scenes that are different – e.g. where the body is found, that Salvo calls Caterella “Cat”, and Caterella’s inability to talk properly is made clear.


Once again, the sets look amazing, with the houses clearly in need of repair, but you can see what stunning places Sicily can have (the room where the dead woman is found has an old and large tree growing in the centre, as you do).  Something I’m finding hard when writing these reviews, is that many characters are not named in the program (or are named once in a previous episode), so it’s a little difficult to refer to characters or their roles. It is very hard when trying to write a review of the program!

It also seems that the Italian justice system is different to English, so can be confusing when they have to talk to the Judge and Commissioner and where the boundaries are….It seems Montalbano likes annoying people by playing by his own sense of justice but still…..!

Sunday Salon: Multiples


The Sunday Salon badge

Considering I have (and have had) so many books in my place, I’m constantly amazed that I rarely have multiple versions of a book by accident. I don’t carry my virtual bookshelves around me when I go into bookshops, and I rarely buy books online anymore.

I’ve stopped getting the “these ebooks are free” emails as I had too many on my e-reader, and it was there that I seemed to have the biggest problem – I’d choose a book, only to be told I’d picked it up months before. One one hand it was good that I still wanted the book based on the blurb, but bad in that I didn’t remember that already picked it up! It was one of the reasons I unsubscribed from the emails.

I do have multiples of paper books – or have at least brought the same book multiple times – but that’s usually by choice.

Sometimes I’ve lost or given away my then-only copy (e.g. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber) and enjoyed the book so much I wanted another copy in the house.

Sometimes I already have a copy, but a new edition was out and I wanted it. Jane Eyre was released as a sub-£2.00 edition and that was easier to carry in the handbag without worrying about it being battered. I think it ended up with a crumpled front cover and a coffee mug stain, but I like to think it looked like it was well read.

I remember a few years ago Jane Austen was issued with new bindings. Since one of my favourite books is Pride and Prejudice, which I’m sure I have another copy in the house somewhere, I had to buy it. Then, of course it would have been rude not to pick up the other five books in order to complete the set! They’ve been on the bookshelves, unopened, ever since, but that’s not the point.

Do you own multiple copies of any books? Why? Is it the format? Size? Just because you love it?

Inspector Montalbano, The Snack Thief, Collection 1, Episode 1

MontalbanoIn the UK, BBC4 started showing Inspector Montalbano in their Saturday night Foreign Crime Drama slot. I was late coming to the show, and certainly hadn’t read any of the books – it’s rare for me to do book AND visual media: I tend to do one or the other.

In 2014, I flicked through the shows on BBC4, but didn’t know where they sat in the general running order. In 2015, I paid more attention, to the point that I requested (and got) the box set for a Christmas present.  Whilst I haven’t read the corresponding books, I have watched all the episodes and am now offering my take on them in future ad hoc posts.  Where I know about or have read the corresponding book as well, I will try to do a “compare and contrast”.

The Snack Thief is number 3 in the Commissario Montalbano books by Andrea Camilleri, but the first episode of the TV show (released in 1999) and we’re immediately being introduced to things: the early morning phone calls from Caterella, Montalbano (with a surprising amount of hair on his shaved head) swimming in the sea, the photogenic Mimi, Fazio (looking shockingly young),  Nicolò the TV news anchor man, lots of swearing you don’t get on the BBC subtitles, Livia, and Caterella’s issue with the door.  My numbering of episodes will go in conjunction with the box set, rather than the release date (so collection 1 etc).

The Snack Thief, MontalbanoOld man Lapecora is found dead in his apartment block lift with bottle of wine at his feet and a knife in his back. We get to see Montalbano’s interview technique, especially when confronted with neighbours more interested in a bottle of wine and their own reputations than their dead neighbour.

Meanwhile, the Tunisian shot dead on a boat in international waters is initially investigated by Mimi, but the investigation is moved to the harbour office at the decision of the Commissioner.

We get to learn more about Montalbano’s home life, with him loving food, especially pasta with broccoli, and that Adelina, his housekeeper is the mother of a criminal he arrested previously.

It turns out that Lapecora has a Tunisian mistress called Karima, they used to meet at his office away from his wife. Montalbano finds that Karima and her son, François, have left the night before, leaving behind a bank book with 300 million lira in the account. Meanwhile, there’s uproar at a local school when it appears that someone has been stealing the children’s food …. The snack thief of the title.

Livia arrives in town and you can see why Katharina Böhm was chosen as the actress, despite not speaking Italian……not only is she beautiful, but willing to do some frontal nudity during her first scene. Livia not the only one to go bare chested, I have to admit, with Montalbano rarely getting through an episode without his top off, one of the few ways you can track time passing, getting to see Zingaretti’s weight fluctuate…

In talking to Livia, Montalbano realises who the snack thief is, and stakes out an area, managing to catch the child. Livia, having come on the stakeout, insists on bringing the child back to the house. Salvo realises just how broody Livia is, and they start talking about getting married in order to adopt François (for that is who it is) and some heated words are said by Livia about their relationship and Salvo’s selfishness.

Whilst watching the news, François recognises the dead Tunisian as his uncle. After a plea on TV, a witness comes forward having seen Karima with Fahrid. The reg number for the car turns out to be a secret service car, and it spooks Salvo to the point he makes François disappear with the help of Mimi and Fazio.

Salvo manages to link the death of the old man to the Tunisian, who was actually Karima’s brother and a terrorist, who had been lured to Sicily to set up a base, only to be betrayed and killed. In turn, Fahrid starts to tidy up the witnesses by killing Karima, with Lapecora having been killed by his wife for bringing his mistress into her house.

The secret services pay Montalbano a visit and they put things in context. They are worried that things might leak out, so ask him to name his price…it’s Karima’s body. When the secret service man refuses, Salvo plays his trip card….the video recorder on the bookshelf. The following morning the body is “magically” found, with only Montalbano knowing he had messed up the recording.

François is staying with Mimi’s sister in law in  the countryside, whilst things are sorted out.  The episode ends with Salvo coming to terms with what Livia had said to him about François being the son they will never have, and he proposes that they get married.


There’s lots of information dumped on you as a viewer, without you necessarily knowing what’s happening – it’s only having seen later episodes first (and the occasional documentary) that I know what to look for. This being number 3 in the book series, I wonder how much has been defined in the previous books – they’re rather slim (in English) so I suspect not. It helps that Camilleri helped on writing the series as well as the books.

There’s some quite moody lighting, especially around the conversations with the secret service, and I think it makes Zingaretti look rather good and brooding. I’ve done some calculations and he must be in his mid-30s when he made this episode.

Due to the fact that I don’t speak Italian, it was only after doing some investigations that I realise that Zingaretti says his lines in Italian and Böhm  says her in English and is dubbed after. There is a certain chemistry between the two, despite neither speaking the other’s language well enough – it was only on repeated viewing that I could spot Böhm speaking English (by lip reading). I believe that the director wanted a certain look (wide-eyed blond beauty) that Böhm delivered – and the language barrier was easily enough passed in post-production.

What was a nice touch – if you pay attention, the actor who plays François is the same actor all the way through, from 5 till 20-something. It’s the only acting work he’s done, and I find it a lovely continuity that not many long-running series will pay attention to.


#BookReview: His Perfect Bride by Jenn Langston

His Perfect Bride

Richard Carrack received the title of Marquis of Stonemede upon his father’s death six months ago. Knowing of the duties associated with the title, he decides to marry and spend the remainder of his days tending to the estate. His requirements for his bride are simple; he wishes her to be obedient and calm-spirited. When circumstances place him in the path of Lady Brianna Denton, whose wild ways make her an unsuitable candidate, he lies about his identity to discourage her from pursuing him for his title.

Brianna Denton knows what she wants out of life. She wishes to marry an untitled lord and live the remainder of her days in the country with no obligations. Only then can she spend her free time painting. When she meets Mr. Richard, she decides he would make the perfect husband. Little does she know, her boldness puts her in a position where she must decide between what she always thought she wanted and what her heart is telling her.

I was trawling through my e-reader, looking for my next read, and decided that perhaps I should look at some of the books I’ve had for a while. This has been in the background for a while, and on further digging, seems to be one I picked up in 2013 from Amazon.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be what I believe to be the first DNF of the year.

I have read my fair share of inappropriately forward Regency women (landed/titled or no), who take their lives into their own hands, and end up with equally matched men (frequently titled and landed) who meet or best them at their own game. Neither of the two characters here were up to par however – Brianna thinks she knows what she wants, but see-saws between wanting Richard or not. Richard thinks that by playing a waiting game and marrying Brianna, he can tame her into the bride he thinks he wants.  A couple of sex scenes later (not particularly raunchy by today’s standards), and with practically no post-coital regrets on either side later (she wipes away her lack of virginity with nary a glance backwards), shows she has as little respect for her imagined future husband as he does for his possible future bride.

Anyway, I get to 50% of the way through, and I’m asked “what are you reading? Is it any good?”. The latter question made me put it away with a “nah, it’s awful”. No, it wasn’t awful, but not a book I wanted to finish or rave about. So sorry, no idea how it ends – could be fabulous, though I suspect not

#BookReview: Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible Curtis Sittinfield

This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.

Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . .And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

From HarperFiction via Netgalley in exchange for a review.

I’ve read Sittenfeld books before, most noticeably her story Sisterland, so when this book came on offer, I jumped at the chance….I love Pride and Prejudice, I’ve read variants before, I’ve read Sittenfeld before, what can go wrong?!

Well, the basic premise of P&P remains the same, though this is very much a modern retelling with modern situations. The “girls” are much older (Jane and Liz are nearing 40, but still, the biological clocks are ticking very loudly), there’s reality TV, IVF, pre-marital sex, casual “hate” sex, adultery, debts and swearing on all sides.  There’s also plenty of other topics covered. It’s probably best not to think of this as a “sequel” or “retelling”, more an “inspired by” – the purists are certainly going to be offended!

There are plenty of nods to the original, but with modern updates, many of which put things from the original in context. Darcy’s income in the original is £10,000 a year, which sounds stupid now, but when I first read P&P, it was put in context at £6million.  In this book, the house alone (thanks to some prudent work by Liz on the internet) is valued at over $55 million, and that doesn’t take into account Darcy’s salary as a Brain Surgeon.

All the major plot points are there: Katherine De Burgh; the dreaded cousin Willie who ends up with BFF Charlotte; the mad mother (with a shopping fetish); the father rapidly running out of money, and refusing to confront the issue; the elopement (yes, it happens and there is a spin).

So: A bold take on a classic, which I think Sittenfeld manages to pull off. It’s modern enough that people who haven’t read the original won’t be put off (did it need some one from the colonies – hahahahahahha  – to cut through all the Regency Manners?). whilst having enough nods to and structure from the original to hopefully placate all but the hardcore obsessives.

About this author

Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of Eligible (out now!) as well as the bestselling novels Sisterland, American Wife, Curtis SittenfeldPrep, and The Man of My Dreams, which have been translated into twenty-five languages. Curtis’s writing has appeared in many publications, including The Atlantic, The New York Times, Vanity Fair,Time, Slate, Glamour, and on public radio’s This American Life. A graduate of Stanford University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she currently lives in St. Louis, MO.

#BookReview: TimeBomb by Scott K. Andrews

timebomb by Scott K andrews

New York City, 2141: Yojana Patel throws herself off a skyscraper, but never hits the ground.

Cornwall, 1640: gentle young Dora Predennick, newly come to Sweetclover Hall to work, discovers a badly-burnt woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. When she reaches out to comfort the dying woman, she’s knocked unconscious, only to wake, centuries later, in empty laboratory room.

On a rainy night in present-day Cornwall, seventeen-year-old Kaz Cecka sneaks into the long-abandoned Sweetclover Hall, determined to secure a dry place to sleep. Instead he finds a frightened housemaid who believes Charles I is king and an angry girl who claims to come from the future.

Thrust into the centre of an adventure that spans millennia, Dora, Kaz and Jana must learn to harness powers they barely understand to escape not only villainous Lord Sweetclover but the forces of a fanatical army… all the while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman known only as Quil.

I received a paperback version of this when I attended a YA bloggers event held by Waterstones in Birmingham in September 2015.  I’m not a huge YA fan (so have no idea how I ended up at the event – I’ve found out subsequently I wasn’t the only person to wonder what they were doing there!) but since this was a nicely prodiced paperback, and we’d all put the effort in, I decided to forge ahead.

Anyway, onto the book:

There’s three main “heroes” in the book – two girls, one guy, who are taken from various places and times, along with several “baddies”, most of whom you don’t know their “motivation” and whether they really are “baddies” or not.

Jana, Kaz and Dora all leap across time and space but end back in England during the 1640s and the English Civil War. Dora is 14 years old and from the 17th Century, so this allows the author to use her as the token “let me explain the internet again” person so that young readers don’t feel stupid by not understanding big ideas like time travel, lasers, computers, laboratories etc. This implies that the book is patronising to younger readers (something I am particularly averse to in books for younger readers, which is why I don’t read much YA) but it’s not.

Quil is an interesting character, occasionally friendly, sometimes believable, and often downright batshit crazy. She is disfigured after some kind of fire, which means she wears a white, full facial mask (which is rather groovy) and a bad wig (which isn’t). Through a quirk of time travel it seems she is in 1645 to look after a 5 years younger version of herself.  It seems Jana, Kaz and Dora have been linked together because between them, they can timetravel, and somehow they are needed to follow up with Quil.  Thankfully, because of Quil’s barminess, some of the more difficult questions over time travel are quickly dismissed by an “I don’t know” or a metaphorical “look! shiny thing!.

There’s no overly complicated terminology or situations; adults are confusing and ambiguous as are situations; there’s plenty of blood, guts, betrayals and death; not everyone gets out of it alive or necessarily whole; people are able to think “this is enough”.  There are enough loose ends in the book to continue the series, and I wouldn’t be adverse to reading the next book (though not necessarily in a rush – but that’s because of me, not the book). I’m sure there are plenty who would go for it. I am going to offer this to someone who has a son in his early teens. In discussing it with her, it seems that the most likely thing to put him off is the female leads (nothing about the blood and guts, naturally!), though he has apparently read the Divergent books, so who knows?!

About this author

I have written episode guides, magazine articles, film and book reviews, comics, audio plays for Big Finish, far too many blogs, some poems you will never read, and a trilogy of novels for Abaddon. My wife and two children indulge me, patiently.

#Armchairbea – Beyond the books! Beyond the Blog!

Design by Amber of Shelf Notes

My main alternative reading is done with comics, both the weekly/monthly comic and the graphic novel Trade Paperbacks. I have untold numbers of both littering the house! I have a standing order at my local comic book store for those comics that I think will be interesting (usually from female writers or characters, but the occasional Batman and Spiderman thrown in!). I have to remember that with comic books, it’s not only about the words, and that quite a lot of what’s happening is through the graphics, so you have to slow down to appreciate it.

I do have a stack of Audiobooks that I should be listening to, but I have a tendency to put them on to play, then fall asleep and then have no idea what’s happened when I wake up again!

I don’t belong to a bookgroup, although I’ve tried over the years. I do belong to a social group around books (Bookcrossing), but that’s not a formal “book club”. I’ve just signed up to a FutureLearn course about Japanese books, but that’s the first time that I’ll have taken a course specifically about books. My Goodreads profile is updated rarely, though I usually use Goodreads to remind me what book reviews are outstanding.

My reviews on GR and LT are updated occasionally with links to my blog, which means they can be in my “to-review” pile for months after the book has actually been read!. I don’t take part in the groups on these systems though I keep meaning to!  My profile on Netgalley is updated every few months – generally when I think there’s been a significant change in my stats.