by Andrea Camillieri
New York : Viking, 2002 (published in Italy in 1994).
Two garbage collectors find a dead politician in a car parked on the notorious Pasture, the local place where people go to find a prostitute. Signor Lubarello died of a heart attack, but the situation surrounding his death suggests to Inspector Montalbano that all is not as it appears. He convinces the judge to let him continue his investigation, even though the death is apparently natural and all Montalbano has to go on is a hunch.
I never would have heard of this Italian police procedural if it hadn't been for Richardderus's recommendation based on my enjoyment of the Three Pines series. I don't read a lot of mysteries; I like them cozy, and I'm picky about it. Well, the Inspector Montalbano series is rougher around the edges than a cozy without going quite so far as the characters in The Maltese Falcon (I despised them, with no exceptions). Montalbano's informants are seedy people but trustworthy in their own fashion. Montalbano himself is not a saint, though he lives by his own code of ethics. Politics are dirty, allegiances are complicated, and it can be a little difficult to follow when you're as completely unfamiliar with Italian police and politics as I am. Even so, I was surprised that the seediness of some people and places didn't bother me more. Interactions between characters are believable and often humorous. The plot is fast-paced, keeping me reading late into the night to get just that much closer to the end, and intrigued me enough to want to continue the series.