MYSTERY

The Brewer of Preston

Penguin. Dec. 2014. 256p. tr. from Italian by Stephen Sartarelli. ISBN 9780143121497. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780698188563. M
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In his second hilarious historical outing (after Hunting Season), the author of the "Commissario Montalbano" police procedurals returns to the fictional 19th-century Sicilian town of Vigàta, where the forced performance of a second-rate opera titled The Brewer of Preston has the good townspeople subverting all law and order for a brief while. Camilleri is a great plotter, and his books are filled with action (mayhem, usually), but the dominant note in all his fiction is humor. Sometimes the amusing prose is sly and witty, but most usually it's demotic, outright bawdy. Translator Sardarellli—the translator from heaven, so good is he—points out in his notes that Camilleri starts every chapter with a direct quote or playful paraphrase of the opening line taken from other authors' books, including the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Herman Melville to Ray Bradbury and Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. The author's literacy sits lightly throughout but is another small cunning pleasure in a book full of delightful surprises.
VERDICT Camilleri has many fans; this book should have broad appeal and only add to his reader base.

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