Riccardino is the last Inspector Montalbano novel, the 28th in the international best-selling series from Andrea Camilleri, who died in 2019.
The text of the novel was given to his publisher in 2005, marginally updated by Camilleri in 2016, and now published in English in 2021.
Camilleri wrote the first book, about Salvo Montalbano, head of the police department in the fictional municipality of Vigata in Sicily, when he was nearly 70. By 2005, sales were booming and the RAI television series, starring Luca Zingaretti, was proving to be an international success.
Nonetheless, in 2005, Camilleri was adamant that after his death, "it will not be possible to recover Montalbano. In that last book, he's really finished".
Riccardino is far from the usual structure of a Montalbano novel, although it does contain familiar characters, such as Livia, Mimi and Fazio but they have lesser roles to police station front man, Catarella, that constant source of garbled names, misunderstandings, and ever crashing through doors.
A sombre, but fitting end, perhaps to Camilleri's superb series of Mediterranean noir.
It is decidedly metafictional. Camilleri, referred to as "The Author" throughout, inserts himself into the text and tells Montalbano, "it is me who informs you... The story about Riccardino, I'm writing it as you live it, it's as simple as that".
The novel begins when Riccardo Lopresti is shot and killed outside a bar in front of his three friends, whom it turns out he has cuckolded.
Montalbano confronts the usual police bureaucracy, political corruption, episcopal bullying and mafia entrenchment:
"One always ended up caught in dangerous webs of relations, collusions between the Mafia and politicians, the Mafia and entrepreneurs, politicians and banks, money-launderers and loan sharks. What an obscene ballet! What a petrified forest of corruption, fraud, rackets, villains, business!"
Montalbano's investigation seems to be going nowhere.
Camilleri complains in a telephone call, "I offer you a lead and you mess around, and I find myself in trouble. As a writer, I mean. We can't go on like this, you have to start investigating."
Montalbano hangs up believing the novel "is a big hodgepodge that reads like it was written by a beginner"... its "a pile of horseshit that doesn't hold together".
In fact, there is a lot for Montalbano fans to appreciate in a complex book in which Montalbano finally tracks down the cause of the murder but realises, on another level, that this will be his last ever case.
Translator Stephen Sartarelli has said in an interview, that Camilleri "didn't want to kill his character, as others had done, and so he had him simply 'go away'", which is what textually happens to Montalbano on the final page. A sombre, but fitting end, perhaps to Camilleri's superb series of Mediterranean noir.
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