ⓘ The Snack Thief is a 1996 novel by Andrea Camilleri, translated into English in 2003 by Stephen Sartarelli. It is the third novel of the internationally popular ..

The Snack Thief

ⓘ The Snack Thief

The Snack Thief is a 1996 novel by Andrea Camilleri, translated into English in 2003 by Stephen Sartarelli.

It is the third novel of the internationally popular Inspector Montalbano series.


1. Plot summary

During a night off the coast of Vigàta a fishing boat from Mazara del Vallo, called "Santopadre", is intercepted and machine-gunned, apparently in international waters, by a Tunisian patrol boat. The exploded shots kill a Tunisian sailor who was on board the Italian boat. On the same day the former merchant Aurelio Lapecora is stabbed in a lift and Karima Moussa, a beautiful Tunisian cleaning lady, suddenly disappears.

Montalbano discovers that the girl also worked in the office of the murdered merchant whose she was lover and that she had a son, François, who also disappeared with her. Thanks to the help of the elderly Aisha, an acquaintance of Karima, Montalbano also finds a savings account owned by the girl with deposited five hundred million lire, a sum too high for a young immigrant who should have had only what she received from her humble work.

While returning to the police station from the visit to the house of Karima, Montalbano sees in front of a primary school a small group of mothers who complain with a policeman of some thefts of snacks, which accuse a small foreigner child. Montalbano realizes that hes François: lurking with his girlfriend Livia and his men, he manages to take the little Tunisian who had taken refuge in an abandoned house. Livia, in reassuring the child brought home by Montalbano to protect him, will feel the birth of his maternal instinct and the desire to form a more intense union with Salvo, adopting the child. The commissioner will join the project of Livia but in the meantime the investigations are complicated by the secret services and the slimy figure of Colonel Lohengrin Pera.

In the story there are many references to Montalbanos relationship with his father, who lives far from Vigata and remains a widower of his second wife. He collects newspaper articles that write about his sons investigative successes and when the commissioner was wounded, he was near him by calling and went to visit him in hospital. Sometimes a box of his good wine arrives at the police station. During the investigation, Montalbano receives a letter from a partner of his fathers winery informing him that he has long been seriously ill with a tumor and that, although aware of his imminent death, he did not want to let his son know anything about spare him the agony of his suffering. Montalbano will arrive in the hospital where his father is hospitalized when he is dead and will bitterly reproach himself for his selfishness because even if he had intuited the malaise he has unconsciously ignored it.


2. Characters

  • François, the snack thief
  • Livia Burlando, Montalbanos eternal girlfriend
  • Lohengrin Pera, Colonel of the secret services
  • Aisha, old woman acquittance of Karima
  • Gege, Montalbanos boyhood friend
  • Giuseppe Fazio, Montalbanos right-hand man
  • Karima Moussa, François mother
  • Domenico "Mimì" Augello, Montalbanos deputy and close friend
  • Agatino Catarella, police officer
  • Aurelio Lapecora, former merchant
  • Salvo Montalbano, Vigàtas chief police station
  • Dr. Pasquano, Vigàtas local forensic pathologist

3. Reception

The Guardian gave the book an interesting review, focusing on Montalbanos very personal notion of justice:

The plotting is characteristically convoluted. It starts simply with the murder of a middle-aged businessman in the lift of his apartment block. But it turns out his Tunisian cleaner – who also sold him sex – has gone missing. Enter a new element, the death of supposed Tunisian sailor at sea, shot by the Tunisian navy while on an Italian fishing boat. It turns out he was the cleaners brother, and was actually a terrorist on the run. And then theres the boy, her son – he is the snack thief of the title, because he has had to live in hiding after his mother disappeared and has been mugging school-kids for their lunches. It has a touch of Midsomer Murders about it, in the way the author uses very ordinary elements of rural life to tell an unusual story. What makes Camilleri stand out from simplistic whodunnits, let alone commonplace police procedurals, is that Montalbano does not always bring criminals to justice. If he does, Camilleri frequently sidelines it. So, in The Snack Thief, the final arrest of a woman for murdering her husband is only briefly mentioned. The story concentrates on how Montalbano saves a Tunisian boy after his mother is murdered and wangles the system, including acquiring her illegal gains, to provide for the boys future. Another murder by the security services he hardly bothers to conclude. Montalbano is a bit like Simenons Maigret in his sense of decency and justice. He has to work within a society dominated by the mafia, corrupt politicians and self-serving bureaucrats. He cannot hope to defeat them outright, but schemes to achieve his ends by outflanking them.


4. Adaptation

It was first adapted for television by RAI with Luca Zingaretti in the TV series Inspector Montalbano. The episode was the first of the series and aired on 6 May 1999.

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