i meant to write about dashiell hammett on his birthday, 27 may, but didn't get around to it. it's not too late to pay tribute to one of the fathers of the hard boiled detective novels. hammett was born in 1894 and is most famous for his noir novels, especially Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man.
another item i meant to write about is one that interests me, but is a stretch to include with a discussion of detective novels. in fact, it has nothing whatsoever to do with them. it is still a recommendation. if you are in washington d.c., please hike yourself over to the national gallery and see the exhibit on lists. as a compulsive list maker, i can't tell you how pleased i am to have seen all the lists made by famous artists: picasso, bertoia, etc. i am not alone. i wonder how many of them have hobbies that are also related to list making, such as bird watching.
the two books i will talk about today are each part of a series, which i take as a warning. i think that when i finish the novel i am working on now, that young man eloquent, the third in the series (Eloquent Blood and Eloquent Corpse: A Murder Mystery are the other two), i will call it quits. too much becomes predictable and necessarily repetitive in long series of novels.
The Paper Moon (Inspector Montalbano Mysteries) by andrea camilleri is the ninth in the inspector montalbano series. by the way, this book, originally written in italian, has no connection with the ryan and tatum o'neil 1973 film that most americans will think of first on hearing the title. camilleri continues to be great on descriptions of sicily and great on descriptions of food. as i said before in commenting on another book in the series, although most of the translation is excellent, the need to translate some accents into what one critic calls 'phonetic brooklynese' is disturbing. also, though i like detectives who second guess themselves and spend time soul-searching (see my own mary beth goldberg), detective montalbano seems to indulge too much, plus his forgetfulness is too thick, un-detective-like. this is for the most part an enjoyable and quick read. it is 257 pages and published by penguin books. stephen sartarelli is the translator.
according to my count, Death of a Witch (Hamish Macbeth Mysteries) is the 25th (!) novel in m. c. beaton's hamish macbeth mystery series. i really, really liked hamish in the first few novels i read. beaton still has a strong, well expressed, feeling for the scottish highlands. this time hamish returns home from a disappointing vacation in spain. his home in lochdubh is beginning to sound more and more like a negative brigadoon. a 'witch' tries to change things and is soon found murdered, as are many others. three beautiful women (investigators and reporters) chase after hamish, but he maintains a better relationship with his two pets than he does with any one of them. the novel seems patched in places to me. again for an enjoyable quick read, it will be fine. the 245 page novel was published by grand central publishers.