The Overnight Kidnapper
By Andrea Camilleri, translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli. (Penguin Books, 257 pages, $16.)
In our house, the publication of a new Inspector Salvo Montalbano novel is cause for celebration. Since 1994, Andrea Camilleri (now 93) has published 25 of these police procedurals, set in the fictional (and apparently crime-infested) town of Vigata on the southern coast of Sicily. The plots are delightful and complex, as tasty as the antipasti and seafood dishes that the Inspector wolfs down every 40 pages.
Salvo himself is sometimes irascible, often self-doubting, but always clever. We see him fencing with the local Mafia, the blustering Commissioner, the stony Coroner and the Carabinieri (analogous to our FBI) — and using them to his advantage. His police unit has remained unchanged through the years — envious Augello, know-it-all Fazio, hot-rodding Gallo and verbally challenged Catarella — and the personalities reliably tax Salvo’s managerial abilities. A constant, too, is his fractious long-distance relationship with Livia, his fiancée.
“The Overnight Kidnapper” presents the Inspector with a series of apparently motiveless kidnappings — no ransom notes, no threats, no harm to the victims, just an abduction and a swift release. Cars are torched. Everyone has a story and a secret. And then Salvo is ready for a double serving of eggplant parmigiana. “Kidnapper” is full of atmosphere and life, and Stephen Sartarelli’s translation captures it all beautifully. Sartarelli also ends each Montalbano novel with a set of illuminating footnotes that explain references to Sicilian holidays, in-jokes and menu items.
The Museum of Modern Love
By Heather Rose. (Algonquin Books, 304 pages, $15.95.)
For nearly three months in 2010, Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic sat inside New York’s Museum of Modern Art for seven hours a day, six days a week, leaning slightly forward in a chair, unmoving.
As Abramovic staged her “The Artist Is Present,” the only thing that changed was the visitor in the chair opposite her.
During those 700 hours of performance, more than a thousand people sat — sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours — opposite the artist. One of them was “The Museum of Modern Love” author Heather Rose.
An Australian writer who got permission from Abramovic to write her novel, Rose succeeds in bringing this cultural moment in time to life, from what people were reading (Muriel Barbery’s bestselling “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”) to how so many were captivated by the photos MOMA posted each day showing the faces and expressions of visitors sitting opposite Marina.
Rose’s characters — a widowed art teacher from Georgia, a Manhattan composer whose wife is gravely ill — keep coming to MOMA’s atrium, drawn to the artist, her endurance and her stillness.
One of the book’s narrators is an all-seeing, artistic guardian angel, and there are moments in “The Museum of Modern Love” that felt a little too much like that sappy holiday favorite “It’s a Wonderful Life” for me. Still, the way that Rose’s lonely characters are transformed when sitting with Abramovic ends up being magical and wholly absorbing.