Can you recall the last time you read a book that had been translated into English? This might have occurred more recently than you remember.
Many of the world’s classic texts were written before the English language existed. This list of books includes the best-selling book of all time: the Bible.
There has been a substantial surge of books issued over the last few years that were translated from other languages. I’ve derived enjoyment from reading novels by writers from exotic climes like Egypt, Colombia and France.
Did you know there are some gifted crime fiction writers working in Italy? Andrea Camilleri has penned a long-running series about a Sicilian detective, Inspector Salvo Montalbano. Montalbano takes his time solving cases. He evaluates clues. This process requires frequent breaks to savor the Italian cuisine. Montalbano can be temporarily distracted by the sight of a lovely woman. Some occupational hazards are downright pleasant.
The Inspector Montalbano series did whet this reviewer’s appetite for Italian crime novels. Montalbano can be somewhat carefree in his approach. Readers might get the feeling that the Inspector is more interested in the meal his housekeeper has left warming for him in the oven than he is in solving crimes.
Marco Vichi might not be as well known but he has written some splendid police procedurals set in mid-1960s Florence. They feature the Florentine cop Detective Inspector Bordelli. Andrea Camilleri, the author of the Inspector Montalbano series has called Bordelli “a disillusioned anti-hero who is difficult to forget.”
The most recent Bordelli book to be translated into English is “Death in Sardinia.” In this one a notorious loan shark has been found brutally murdered. Bordelli is intrigued by the case because this man was so despised that the range of potential suspects is substantial.
Bordelli locates the loan shark’s financial records hidden under a floorboard. This material validates Bordelli’s long held belief that this man was blackmailing his clientele. The coroner theorizes that the killer was probably left handed.
With this information Bordelli tracks down the loan shark’s debtors one by one. Bordelli invents some pretext to determine if any of them are left handed. He then returns their IOUs while wishing each one a Merry Christmas.
He has a notion who killed the loan shark but needs to be positive. He is also trying to quit smoking. The number of cigarettes he smokes becomes an accurate barometer to gauge his level of immersion in this case. He’s chain smoking by story’s end.
He often visits friends; Rosa, a retired prostitute, and Toto, the chef who welcomes Bordelli inside his restaurant kitchen for fabulous food and conversation. Meanwhile Piras, Bordelli’s usual sidekick, is down in his native Sardinia recuperating from injuries. Piras becomes suspicious after a friend seems to take his own life. As Bordelli closes in on his killer Piras is conducting a homicide investigation of his own.
“Death in Sardinia” by Marco Vichi, translated by Stephen Sartarelli (Pegasus Books, 454 pages, $25.95)