Book Review: The Safety Net by Andrea Camilleri
By Ray PalenApril 14, 2020
The Safety Net by Andrea Camilleri is the 25th book in the Inspector Montalbano Mystery series, where a middle school is threatened by a group of armed men, and a closer look at the situation finds Montalbano looking into the students themselves and finally delving into the world of social media.
It was quite a blow to the literary world when it lost international bestselling author Andrea Camilleri in 2019. His Inspector Montalbano mysteries are beloved and include 25 novels as well as an Italian television series. The Safety Net marks the 25th appearance of the aforementioned Inspector Montalbano, and I dove into it with obviously mixed feelings. I so look forward to these brief journeys to Sicily, but I was saddened in knowing that would be the last time I would be doing so with Mr. Camilleri as my guide. Rumors abound that there may be some unpublished Montalbano stories still out there, and I can only hope they see the light of day.
The easy-going writing style of Camilleri is one of the many reasons this series is so terrific. The Safety Net, like all other Montalbano mysteries, is like spending time with friends from Sicily, where the pace is a little bit slower and everything around you is a treat for the senses. From the food (which is always described with great detail by Camilleri) to the weather to the close-knit community that goes back for centuries, these well-crafted tales are always a delight for readers.
The Safety Net sucks you in completely from the beginning with its great characters and the descriptions of their day-to-day lives. In fact, I found that I was so engrossed with Montalbano and the recurring and new characters that surround him that it never occurred to me a mystery or crime was going to present itself for solving at some point. Camilleri offers a handful of plotlines in this novel, and each could have owned a single novel. Together, however, they create a tapestry of life in Vigàta, Sicily, representing both the past, present, and future.
Throughout the novel, Montalbano and his team must deal with a Swedish film team that is making a TV-movie set in Vigàta. Montalbano has become friendly with the film company’s producer, Ingrid, and has the opportunity to share several meals with her team while showing her the sights of Vigàta and recounting some of its history.
The second storyline—and the one I found the most compelling—begins when Montalbano is sent a movie reel shot on Super 8 film containing a series of shots of the same location taken once a year on the same day. The shot is of a wall with nothing specifically interesting about it. The sender, Ernesto Sabatello, explains that this same shot was filmed yearly by his father from 1958 until he passed in 1963. As Montalbano investigates this engaging puzzle on his own time, it reveals the Sabatello’s family history and the tragedy that befell them.
The third and final storyline involves a school shooting that takes place in Vigàta while Montalbano was attempting to enjoy the first of his four days of vacation up north—and it definitely hits home in today’s present. Other than the current pandemic that firmly grips our world, the biggest tragedies have been the random mass shootings perpetrated across the globe.
When Montalbano sees one of his own team, Mimi Augello, on the TV at the site of the shooting, he abruptly ends his vacation and returns to Vigàta where he learns the details of the shooting. Augello’s son attends the school, so he rushed there as soon as an emergency call was received at the precinct. Two masked gunmen entered the school and fired warning shots prior to delivering their intended message. They apparently belonged to a group known as Anonymous, and the possible intention of their violent visit was to address cases of school bullying. This is quite an interesting case as the interviews Montalbano and his team collect show evidence that it could have been an inside job.
At one point, towards the end of the novel, Montalbano walks the beaches near where the film crew was shooting and kicks up part of a net intended to protect the film that was buried in the sand. Based on all that was going on in Vigàta, as well as around the globe, Montalbano imagines that this net symbolizes the different kinds of protection we seek as a people. How there is a widespread desire to feel safe from the unknown. Affecting thoughts when compared to the current state of our world.
We lost a literary giant with the death of Andrea Camilleri, but at least he lives on in his works—including this enlightening last novel.