I wish I had read The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleriin print, rather than listening to the audio. It’s rare that I say that, most audiobooks I’ve listened to have been well dones, and in general I enjoy listening to mysteries; this one was just a little tough. I don’t know why exactly, maybe there was just too much dialogue for an audio, a little too difficult to keep the speakers straight. Or maybe the voices of Inspector Salvo Montalbano and the other characters were not how I heard them in my head when I read the first in the series, The Shape of Water.
The Potter’s Field is, at heart, a book about betrayal disguised as a mystery. An unidentified corpse is found in a clay field, the potters field. The body has been hacked into thirty pieces and placed in a black plastic bag. Salvo is reminded of the passage in Matthew 27. After Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver “he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ ‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’ So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the coins and said, ‘It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.’ So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners.” (Matt 27: 3-7, NIV) From that point, they all seem to be walking in the Potter’s Field, betrayals, both public and private, of friends, family, and lovers pile up. Salvo has to find his way through all the entangled threads to the truth without destroying the life of anyone he cares about.
Montalbano is an intelligent, well-read detective and literary and artistic references are sprinkled throughout the book. He also feels himself getting older and perhaps not as quick as he used to be, but his cleverness and observations more than make up for it. His interactions with his officers are geniune and I love how he talks over the heads of superiors he disdains, like when he makes a report to his boss using only titles of Dostoevsky novels knowing the boss hadn’t read any of them.
The translation by Stephen Sartarelli felt like it may have been a little clunky at times, but once again I think that would have been easier to overlook in print than it is in audio.
I love how Camillerie’s books are more than just the mystery, the puzzle, more rounded than some mysteries. There’s the Sicily setting, corrupt yes, but a world of blue skies and the sea. There are touches of philosophy and history, and well-rounded characters, few all good or all bad. I want to go to Salvo’s Sicily, meet the the characters who inhabit his books, taste the food, sit on the veranda and enjoy the atmosphere. But next time I visit, I’ll make sure I do it in print, not audio.
3 out of 5 stars
Category: Mystery- Police Procedural
Inspector Montalbano #13
First published 2008
6 hours, 4 minutes
Read by Grover Gardner
Book source: Library
Inspector Montalbano series
- The Shape of Water (Italian: La forma dell’acqua)
- The Terra-Cotta Dog (Italian: Il cane di terracotta)
- The Snack Thief (Italian: Il ladro di merendine)
- Voice of the Violin (Italian: La voce del violino)
- The Excursion to Tindari (Italian: La gita a Tindari )
- The Smell of the Night (APA: The Scent of the Night) (Italian: L’odore della notte)
- Rounding the Mark (Italian: Il giro di boa )
- The Patience of the Spider (Italian: La pazienza del ragno)
- The Paper Moon (Italian: La luna di carta)
- August Heat (Italian: La vampa d’agosto)
- The Wings of the Sphinx (Italian: Le ali della sfinge)
- The Track of Sand (Italian: La pista di sabbia )
- The Potter’s Field (Italian: Il campo del vasaio)
- The Age of Doubt (Italian: L’età del dubbio)
- Le prime indagini
- La danza del gabbiano
- La caccia al tesoro
- Il sorriso di Angelica
- Il gioco degli specchi