Several people, including my eldest daughter and nakeisha, reckoned I should read Skulduggery Pleasant - I accordingly did just that, so I'll start with that book and then move on to the first two Inspector Montalbano books by Andrea Camilleri.
A funeral brings the Edgely family together - that of Gordon Edgley, one of three disparate brothers. Gordon was twelve year old Stephanie's favourite uncle and it was no secret that the two got along very well. It shouldn't have come as any surprise then that he leaves Stephanie the vast majority of his estate, including his very large mansion. At the funeral, and also at the reading of the will a few days later, is a very strange man - strange in that his entire face is covered with a scarf and sunglasses. He tells Stephanie that he is Skulduggery Pleasant, a sort of private detective. One night, alone in the mansion, she's attacked by persons unknown, using magic, and saved by Skulduggery. It is then that Stephanie makes the discovery that the detective is in fact a skeleton. She decides to join him in his fight against the dark, much against Skulduggery's better instincts, and is introduced to a world of magic that she had no idea existed. That it is also an incredibly dangerous world she soon discovers for herself, when her own life is in mortal danger and Skulduggery not always around to save her.
Who would have thought of a magical private detective who is a skeleton? Amazing what Young Adult fantasy authors are coming up with - no wonder this genre is one of the biggest growth areas in publishing at the moment. Derek Landy is Irish I believe and wrote screenplays before starting on this YA series, and all power to his elbow for his originality. I loved the pacey plot and the humorous dialogue, especially between Stehanie and Skulduggery who have such a refreshingly unsentimental relationship. I would recommend this for slightly older teens as it is fairly violent. Other than that I would say it could be enjoyed by *all* ages as it really is great fun.
Next up The Shape of Water and The Terracotta Dog by Andrea Camilleri.
The Shape of Water is the first book featuring the Italian detective, Inspector Salvo Montalbano. The setting is a small town in Sicily, and Montalbano a single man of mature years with a girlfriend who lives in Northern Italy. This first story involves the finding of the body of a local politician, half naked, in an area of the town known for prostitution. It's assumed he died of natural causes, during or after illicit sex, but Montalbano is not happy with that assumption and continues with the case long after his superiors wish him to. It brings him all kinds of problems as he deals with corrupt politicians, the local Mafia and the ineptness of his own staff.
In The Terracotta Dog an old school friend of Montalbano's, now a pimp, sets up a meeting with the detective and a Mafia boss who wants to turn himself in. A supermarket is robbed but the goods found abandoned the next day. And then an elderly member of the fascist party has a fatal accident which, it turns out, is not an accident after all. Montalbano is eventually led to a cave in a hillside, near the town, in which arms are discovered and thence on to discover a hidden cave behind that. Here the skeletons of two lovers are found, along with a Terracotta dog, an empty water jug and a bowl containing old coins. In the course of other investigations Montalbano is shot and thus gains the time to fully investigate what turns out to be a World War II mystery of many twists and turns.
I'm new to this series of crime books; having seen them blogged about elsewhere I thought they sounded interesting, as I do enjoy a crime yarn set in another country. Sicily is depicted as ridden with corruption and very much influenced by the Mafia; I know nothing about the island so have no idea how true to life this actually is. To tell the truth, even after reading two books, I'm still not sure whether or not I like the series (there are 10 so far). I'm finding Inspector Montalbano to be rather arrogant and not particularly likeable - he still has to endear himself to me in some unfathomable way.
The Shape of Water was not a bad story - I read it several weeks ago and my impression of it now is confused. Mainly I think because I found it hard to remember quite a large cast of characters and their, obviously, Italian names. Hopefully I'll get used to that. The second book, The Terracotta Dog, I found a bit more interesting but even that one didn't take off for me until about halfway through when the inspector starts his investigations into local events during WW2. Then it became a very human story that really did resonate with me.
One warning I feel I should add for anyone thinking of reading these books. There is a certain amount of sexual explicitness about them, and bad language. I'm not particularly put off by that but I know some are, so I think it only fair to warn people. Put it this way, if my mother was still alive I would not give her these books to read!
So, will I continue with the series? Yes, I will. There's just enough about them to keep me interested, though I'm hard put to put my finger on what. I know that's a bit ridiculous, but there you go. I have book 3 on my library pile as a matter of fact but may take it back unread and get it out later in the year; I'm not sure I want to read another one quite so quickly.