#BookReview: Hunting Season by Andrea Camilleri

Hunting Season

Sicily, 1880. When a stranger arrives in Vigata, the town’s inhabitants immediately become unsettled. It seems the young man, Fofo, is the son of a local peasant legendary for his home-grown medicines; a man who was murdered many years before.

Fofo opens his own pharmacy in Vigata and his remedies are sought by many. But he soon finds himself entangled with the local nobility: Don Filippo – a philandering marchese set on producing a new heir, his long-suffering wife Donna Matilde, his eccentric elderly father Don Federico, his son Federico and beautiful daughter Ntontò above all. But it won’t be long before death visits Vigata and the town and its most noble family will never be the same again . . .

Both a delightful murder mystery and a comic novel of huge brio, fired by love and obsession and filled with memorable characters, Hunting Season is the captivating new book from Andrea Camilleri, the bestselling author of the Inspector Montalbano series.

I picked up Hunting Season in a bookshop – a rare purchase of a new paper book in a time of a overwhelming TBR. This is by the writer of Inspector Montalbano series of books, but set in the 1880s version of Montalbano’s Vigata (I believe it’s a precursor in every way, having been written in 1990).

It’s still a detective story of sorts, starting with the arrival of a young man who keeps himself to himself, and proceeds to set up a pharmacy. When the town finds out who he is – he’s the son of a local peasant who was murdered 20 years previously – the book seems to be set up to have him the centre of some mystery.

However much of the book concentrates on the local nobility and the fatal accidents that befall the senior members of the family. Along the way there is plenty of opportunities for sex including what Don Filippo will do to have a son (and who Frederico falls in love with, before he, too, dies…..) and the book is often described as “bawdy”.

There are comic effects along the way too – something that is often taken into Montalbano books and the show which annoys some reviewers. For example, the Marquis is annoyed by the smallest things, one of which being the cock that fails to crow when the Marquis expects and wants him to. Therefore the Marquis decides he needs to give the bird a good talking to

The discussion between the Marquis and the cock took place without the others knowing about it. They realized, however, that the cock had not budged from his intention to do things his way, since they found him with his neck broken

In the end, though we get to find out how many of the deaths were natural, how many weren’t and what was done.  I’m not usually a fan of novels in translation, but I think the translator here has done an excellent job in making this book readable, and I understand that he has managed to convey the underlying tone of someone who regularly writes in hard-core Sicilian

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