Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Police Inspector Salvo Montalbano could write a book about the subtleties of
Sicilian cuisine, but he is admittedly ignorant when it comes to music.
Nevertheless, in Voice of the Violin
, the fourth Montalbano mystery, the
inspector must learn to listen to the world in unfamiliar ways in order to make
sense of a baffling array of clues. A beautiful woman is found smothered and
naked in the bed of her unfinished home, and a search of the house turns up no
articles of clothing other than a pink bathrobe. Soon afterward, a prime suspect
in the case is gunned down by a police squad in less than transparent
circumstances. The dead woman's husband, who claims to have loved her "like
a daughter," views her murder with a strange emotional detachment.
Meanwhile, above all the confusion, as if on a level of existence more
celestially beautiful than ours, a masterful but reclusive violinist plays free
morning concerts for his paraplegic neighbor.
Voice of the Violin
is a classic whodunit, taking the reader on a
labyrinthine path that leads from the discovery of a murder victim to the
climactic unmasking of the killer. In the hands of a master storyteller like
Andera Camilleri, however, the classic is never the conventional. As Montalbano
implacably tracks down the murderer, he also continues to deal with a thorny
romantic life and the frustrations of working within the criminal justice
system, all the while indulging his insatiable appetite for Sicilian delicacies.
As in all of the Montalbano mysteries,
Andrea Camilleri paints a detailed portrait of small-town Sicilian life, which
he portrays as violent and corrupt, yet redeemed by a sensuous awareness of
beauty. What are the sources of beauty in Voice of the Violin, and do
they compensate for the harsher aspects of the life Camilleri describes?
In chapter nine, Mimì tells Montalbano
that he is not cut out to be a father, either biological or adoptive. Is his
assessment of his boss accurate? Why would the inspector make or not make a good
In Voice of the Violin, Montalbano
continues his love affair with Livia, a liaison that both find intensely
frustrating but without which neither is prepared to live. What, in your view,
makes the two so dependent on each other and yet so mutually infuriating?
The hapless Catarella, whose endless
blunders generate much of the comedy in the Montalbano series, seems finally to
have found his niche in computer technology. How is Camilleri using Catarella to
express an opinion about the computer age?
Adelina, Montalbano's housekeeper,
routinely leaves exquisitely prepared dishes in her employer's refrigerator, but
the two almost never see each other face to face. When Montalbano dines out, he
very often eats alone. Why do you think Camilleri has Montalbano gratify his
love for food without more human contact?
The Montalbano novels take few specific
political positions. However, the general political flavor of these is somewhat
left of center. Nicolò Zito, arguably Montalbano's best friend and the most
astute television news commentator in the province, is a communist. When a labor
dispute breaks out, Montalbano reflexively sides with the workers. How do you
respond to the political undercurrents in Camilleri's work?
Although Montalbano is inwardly hurt when
the boy he has hoped to adopt rejects him, he makes no attempt to press for the
child's custody. In your view, should he have put up more of a fight? Why or why
Montalbano admires Anna Tropeano for her
"astonishing, wholly feminine capacity for deep understanding, for
penetrating one's feelings, for being at once mother and lover, daughter and
wife." How does Montalbano's concept of femininity influence his ability to
understand and have relationships with women?
Near the end of the novel, Montalbano
looks back on the entire Licalzi case as "one mistake after another."
Why do you think this novel, and crime fiction in general, so often revolves
around mistakes and accidents of one kind or another?
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