Book Review: A Nest of Vipers by Andrea Camilleri

A Nest of Vipers (Commissario Montalbano #21)
by Andrea Camilleri, Stephen Sartarelli (Translator)

Publication date: February 8th 2018
Publisher: Picador (first published 2013)
Pages: 288


In the latest installment of the New York Times bestselling Inspector Montalbano mystery series, Montalbano investigates the death of wealthy accountant Cosimo Barletta in a case involving a string of mistresses and family secrets.

Inspector Montalbano enjoys simple pleasures: delicious food, walks along the water, the occasional smoke yet these are just the backdrop to his duties as a detective. His latest case is the killing of the wealthy Cosimo Barletta. Thought to be a widower living out a quiet life by the sea, Cosimo s sudden death, by gunshot to the neck, opens up his past to scrutiny. What Montalbano uncovers is Cosimo s trove of salacious photographs, used to extort young women, and a history full of greed and corruption. Montalbano, though resolved to find the killer, muses on where justice lies in his pursuit of a suspect or with one of Cosimo s innumerable victims getting the revenge they deserved? 

Source: Goodreads


I was given this book by my Italian BFF (thanks @gildaklothes!) so knew that I was going to enjoy it from the start.

I’ve not read any of the other books in this series, but it works pretty well as a stand alone book. It’s a murder mystery and this victim has not just been killed the once, but twice. And just like Poirot, it’s Inspector Montalbano’s job to find the murderer.

This book is so Italian, from the beautiful locations to the good food and witty characters and I read a lot of the book with a smile on my face.

“Adelina laid the table on the veranda, and he had a feast. Not so much owing to the dish his housekeeper had cooked – which was always the quintessence of heaven – but because the meal came with the best seasoning one could ever hope for: a day of sun, with an ever-so-light breeze that not only was a disturbance, but also carried the scent of the sea.”

Beyond the beauty of Camilleri’s description, I found that I struggled to get along with some parts of the translation. A lot of words and phrases didn’t seem all that natural in English and I wonder whether I would have enjoyed it more if I could read Italian. But my main dislike, something I really couldn’t stand, was the character whose words were written phonetically. This guy clearly had a strong accent, as I couldn’t actually understand some of the sentences that he came out with! I mean… I don’t know what language this is but I’m not 100% certain that it’s English and it really doesn’t make for an easy read…

“‘Ere’s a moider, ‘a’ss what! Fazio jess now wint to the scene e’ the crime! An’ ‘e wannit yiz to go to the scene where ‘e’s onna scene! An’ ‘a’ss why I’s callin’ yiz a’ ‘ome foist ting inna mornin’!”

The majority of the book is dialogue, as the detective and his collegaues talk through their suspicions and evidence they have come across. While this is generally good for keeping the story moving, this book could have done with a few less pages in my opinion.

In general I’d say that this mystery was a little too obvious. The ending didn’t shock me as much as intended as the murders can be predicted several chapters before the end, so it was good to have a slight twist that I hadn’t anticipated and I certainly wasn’t expecting that!

Overall rating: “A Nest of Vipers” was an enjoyable and easy read but I wasn’t wowed with my first experience of the Commissario Montalbano series. I’m pretty sure something has got lost in the translation from Italian to English but it’s still quirky, fun and mostly light-hearted, getting 3 stars from me.

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