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Game of Mirrors by Andrea Camilleri

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Game of Mirrors by Andrea Camilleri Game of Mirrors by Andrea Camilleri
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Series: Commissario Montalbano #18
Published by Blackstone Audio on March 31, 2015 (first published 2011)
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 5 hrs 34 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Inspector Montalbano and his colleagues are stumped when two bombs explode outside empty warehouses - one of which is connected to a big-time drug dealer. Meanwhile the alluring Liliana Lombardo is trying to seduce the inspector over red wine and arancini. Between pesky reporters, amorous trysts, and cocaine kingpins, Montalbano feels as if he's being manipulated on all fronts. That is until the inspector himself becomes the prime suspect in an unspeakably brutal crime.

I’ve read/listened to several of the Montalbano mysteries over the years. It’s a series I know what to expect from. The main characters don’t change much over the years and the food always sounds delicious. For me, this is one of the series I turn to when I want something that I know I’ll enjoy.

This time around we’ve got a couple of bombings, but they both take place at empty warehouses, which is odd. Montalbano has a sexy new (married) neighbor who seems determined to seduce him. Her car’s been vandalized and her computer salesman husband is never around. To top it all off, anonymous letters and phone calls are being sent to citizens, the prosecutor and a television station, all pointing in different directions. We’ve also got a couple of drug gangs that may or may not be involved. Of course, Montalbano manages to tie all the seemingly random events together.

I often listen to the audios for this series, rather than read the print versions. I like hearing the names of people and places and foods. They sound so much more fluid than they would in my head. Also, the plots aren’t overly complicated, so they’re good to listen to as I’m doing chores or out at the gym.

As always, the writing is well done. Camilleri really gives a feeling of the place and especially the people of both Sicily in general and Montalbano’s circle. I don’t think this would be the best introduction to the series, but if you’re already a fan it’s definitely worth reading.

About Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri (born September 6, 1925 in Porto Empedocle) is an Italian writer. He is considered one of the greatest Italian writers of both 20th and 21st centuries. Camilleri lives in Rome where he works as a TV and theatre director. About 10 million copies of his novels have been sold to date, and are becoming increasingly popular in the UK and North America.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Ice Queen by Nele Neuhaus

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The Ice Queen by Nele Neuhaus The Ice Queen by Nele Neuhaus
Narrator: Robert Fass
Series: Bodenstein & Kirchhoff #3
Published by Blackstone Audio on January 13, 2015
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 14 hrs 38 mins
Format: Audiobook
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The body of ninety-two-year-old Jossi Goldberg, Holocaust survivor and American citizen, is found shot to death execution style in his house near Frankfurt. A five-digit number is scrawled in blood at the murder scene. The autopsy reveals an old and unsuccessfully covered tattoo on the corpse's arm, a blood type marker once used by Hitler's SS. Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver Bodenstein are faced with a riddle. Was the old man not Jewish after all? Who was he, really?

Two more, similar murders happen, one a wheelchair-bound old lady in a nursing home, the other a man with a cellar filled with Nazi paraphernalia, and slowly the connections between the victims become evident: All of them were lifelong friends with Vera von Kaltensee, baroness, well-respected philanthropist, and head of an old, rich family that she rules with an iron fist. Pia and Oliver follow the trail, which leads them all the way back to the end of World War II and the area of Poland that then belonged to East Prussia. No one is who they claim to be, and things only begin to make sense when the two investigators realize what the bloody number stands for and uncover an old diary and an eyewitness who is finally willing to come forward.

First off, a minor complaint. Neuhaus’ series is being translated from German, but out of order. So the first I read was Snow White Must Die #4, then Bad Wolf #6, and now The Ice Queen#3. Each is a self-contained mystery, but Pia and Oliver’s personal lives come into play a fair amount and it’s a little odd going back in time to see where their relationships were, knowing how they change over time. It doesn’t bother me too much, but I feel like it would be a stronger series read in order.

The story is absorbing, a mystery involving an influential family and secrets that go back to WW2. The blurb above gives the basic plotline, but it gives you no idea of how inter-connected theses people’s lives are, how horrible their secrets are. It’s a large cast, and the narrator, Robert Fass, does a reasonable job. I found a few of his voices jarring, but I do understand that it can be difficult to keep that many people differentiated from each other. I like listening to translated mysteries, rather than reading them. The narrator is so smooth with the places and names that I would totally be stumbling over, and I just like the way they sound. Amber may have caught me repeating German towns and surnames on more than one occasion over the last couple days.

The mystery itself is well-done. There are a lot of suspects and a variety of motives that kept me guessing. I was honestly shocked by who the killer was, even though once the whole things was wrapped up it made complete sense. There are a lot of threads running through the story though, and people have different reasons behind their actions. It’s a difficult case for Pia and Oliver to sift their way through. But for once it’s the male officer who puts himself in a sticky situation that he ends up paying for, although his punishment is way more lenient than I think it should have been, at least from his wife’s point of view. Usually, at least in books I’ve read recently, it seems to be the woman who gets herself into a stupid dangerous situation. Pia does end up in danger, but not because of a bad decision she made, but because the other characters are making their own unrelated decisions at the same time.

This is a solid book, and, at least for me, an interesting look at how WW2 is still shadowing people’s lives. And a reminder not to underestimate people.

About Nele Neuhaus

Cornelia “Nele” Neuhaus is a German writer. She is best known for her crime thrillers.

Beastly Things by Donna Leon

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Beastly Things by Donna Leon Beastly Things by Donna Leon
Narrator: David Colacci
Series: Commissario Brunetti #21
Published by Blackstone Audio on April 3, 2012
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 9 hrs 20 mins
Format: Audiobook
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When the body of man is found in a canal, damaged by the tides, carrying no wallet, and wearing only one shoe, Brunetti has little to work with. No local has filed a missing-person report, and no hotel guests have disappeared. Where was the crime scene? And how can Brunetti identify the man when he can’t show pictures of his face? The autopsy shows a way forward: it turns out the man was suffering from a rare, disfiguring disease. With Inspector Vianello, Brunetti canvasses shoe stores, and winds up on the mainland in Mestre, outside of his usual sphere. From a shopkeeper, they learn that the man had a kindly way with animals.

At the same time, animal rights and meat consumption are quickly becoming preoccupying issues at the Venice Questura, and in Brunetti’s home, where conversation at family meals offer a window into the joys and conflicts of Italian life. Perhaps with the help of Signorina Elettra, Brunetti and Vianello can identify the man and understand why someone wanted him dead.

I’ve read several of the Brunetti mysteries, but not necessarily in order. Beastly Things was okay, not the best in the series and there were some things I missed. First and foremost I missed the food, the delicious meals Brunetti has, the desserts and drinks. They’re here, but not as tempting as usual. Of course, that probably has to do with the social theme she’s tackling in addition to the mystery. We have a look inside the food industry, at the slaughtering of animals and how the meat is deemed “safe for human consumption.” I don’t mind social issues in mysteries, but at times it can over-shadow the actual mystery plot. And the horrible scene at the slaughterhouse was not as disturbing as I thought it would be, in all honesty. But maybe I’ve heard too many horror stories before.

I like the characters as always and Venice is as a wonderful setting. I will say the plot held few surprises. I guessed who the killer was and was never really persuaded that there was another viable choice. Maybe the novelty of Leon’s series is wearing off. I know the people, the food and setting are wonderful, but it’s the same Venice. I need the focus to be a social issue I care about, and there does seem to always be an issue in her mysteries, or a plot that twists a bit more than this one did.

The narration was well-done. The characters were easy to distinguish and I didn’t feel there any jarring tones or “voices.” He just kind of blended into the story, which I mean as a compliment.

The ending left me a bit discombobulated. On the one hand, there is a very touching funeral scene. On the other, the whole food industry was just dropped. I’ll grant you that it was not in Brunetti’s job to be able to do anything about it, but . . I don’t know. It just felt incomplete to me somehow.

About Donna Leon

Donna Leon is the author of the international best-selling Commissario Guido Brunetti series. The winner of the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, among other awards, Leon was born in New Jersey and lived in Venice for over thirty years. She now makes her home in Switzerland.

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