The Sect of Angels

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

It's not often that I add an unusual review, but (as you see from above) the Crime Writers Association asked me to write his obituary. For those who wish to see the whole obituary, I paste it here.

Farewell Andrea Camilleri and Thank You, by CWA International Dagger Judge Ruth Morse
25th July 2019 by TheCRA

With the inauguration of what in 2006 became the International Dagger, the CWA took great care to get things right, especially since there had been a ruckus about books in translation. This matters because – at the time – there were so few foreign authors translated into English. So began a major development, not just for the CWA, but also for authors previously unknown and as yet unread. Anglo-Saxon readers had hitherto had to read their crime fiction in what were, alas, often not very good translations. But that was just the start. The International Dagger spurred publishers to produce works of quality translations that matched the original novels. In our first three years as judges we had repeat offenders, of whom one of the most welcome was a Sicilian theatre director none of us had heard of.

And thus we discovered Andrea Camilleri, a writer of perfectly plotted crime novels with a cast of recurring characters and subjects that ranged through the hilarious to the subtly political. For three years Picador annually sent us one, and sometimes two, books. I confess that I liked this new writer so much that I sometimes couldn’t wait, and bought my Camilleri in French, especially for his short stories. The Sect of Angels belongs to his historical novels. There will be one or two Montalbano books still to come: the last one may still be in a bank vault. Europa Editions are adding to Camilleri’s Montalbano novels by bringing out some of his historical novels. For us as judges, the arrival of a new Camilleri was always reason for rejoicing. As the years passed, a succession of judges tended to put the new book in the bottom of the waiting pile so we’d have something to look forward to, come a rainy day. In 2012 Camilleri first won the prize of the International Dagger with The Potter’s Field. We became accustomed to longlisting Camilleri’s commissario without fuss: the books were consistently of such a high standard.

Camilleri had his roster of characters who created what went on in Vigata – such as the Swedish neighbour and her fast car, or the restaurateur, Enzo, who made sure Montalbano always got a good lunch. He also had Adelina, an excellent cleaning lady who made sure that when she went home she left a reheatable dinner in the fridge. Montalbano knows that Adelina’s children are closer to the Mafia than she or Montalbano find altogether easy to cope with, yet somehow they do. The commissario’s squad of detectives worked well with each other, finding skills that Catarella, the sergeant at the front desk, didn’t know he knew so much until he discovered and mastered the use of computers. Mimi Augello, is another member of the squad, though his skirt-chasing doesn’t suit everyone. Fazio, one of the younger men of the squad, is prone to over-annotate his notes about whole genealogies of no importance, which drives Montalbano crazy. In the Montalbano novels Camilleri spread his web thoughout the area we know as Vigata. A more complex relationship is with Livia, who shares Montalbano’s willingness to live together – except that she lives too far away. In fact, what brings the two together is not Adelina (who dislikes Livia for all the usual reasons), but Livia’s relatively recent acquisition of a dog. Between Montalbano and Livia there is always her plangent desire to have children.

Camilleri was a writer who wrote every day – as good writers do. After his three-hour stint in the mornings he released himself to do other things. And, lately, Europa Books have published earlier work which had never been published before, sometimes because an acquaintance told him a story, sometimes because he had one at his fingertips. Mainly, his historical novels had to make way for Montalbano. Born in 1925, living under fascism, Camilleri joined the Communist Party. He directed theatre work, both as a teacher and as a director. He was lucky enough to have known Leonardo Sciascia, himself a pioneer of crime fiction in Italy, including The Day of the Owl. In the theatre he directed Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author.

In an interview with Mark Lawson, Camilleri said, ‘you can write a novel from first to last chapter with a perfect order of logic. I saw the form of the thriller as a cage that does not allow you to escape’. Above all, perhaps, Camilleri’s politics deal with the Mafia (with a long spoon), as well as Berlusconi. Concomitantly, Camilleri’s politics include an untainted police force.

In 2012 Camilleri and Stephen Sartarelli, his English-language translator, each received one of the CWA Daggers: for the author, and for the translator. I cannot imagine there being no more Montalbano, no more than I can think ‘no more Camilleri’. Perhaps he’s found a comfortable cloud somewhere in writers’ heaven. I leave his last words: ‘In many crime novels, the events seem detached from the context. I deliberately decided to smuggle in a critical commentary on my times’.


by Ruth Morse, Judge/CWA International Dagger

Ruth Morse retired recently from her Chair at the Université Paris-Sorbonne-Cité (Diderot), having previously taught at the universities of London, Sussex, Leeds, and Cambridge. She has published many articles and reviews on a variety of topics including medieval literature, Shakespeare, and crime fiction, which she reviews for The Times Literary Supplement. She now teaches crime fiction at the National Humanities Center in the US and for the Institute of Continuing Education at Cambridge.
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The Sect of Angels is a novella by Andrea Camilleri, who is well known as the author of the Montalbano mysteries. Released 30th April 2019 by Europa Editions, it's 176 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

Prolific and engaging, Camilleri's books are readable and always enjoyable. I have been following his work for years. I found this story, based on true events from 1901 in a rural town in Sicily, a lot heavier going than the Inspector Montalbano books which are lighthearted and fun.

The central themes of duplicity and exploitation of the weak and naive by people in power (religious and political leaders) has too many parallels in today's world to make for entirely comfortable reading. The author's deft hand with plotting and dialogue are masterful as always. Camilleri's a very adept judge of human character and the responses of the villains of the piece to having their sordid acts exposed are all too believable; they band together and drive the would-be whistleblower to exile under threat of death.

This is a standalone book and as all of Camilleri's oeuvre, most excellently written. The themes of sexual abuse, patriarchal rigidity, sexism, and rampant machismo make the book an all-too-believable tragedy.

Four stars. Difficult themes.
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How I wanted to like this book! The setting seemed interesting as well as the moment in time. I tried and tried, but with so many characters I just couldn't get into the story. Maybe one day it will click. Right now I'll have to leave it.
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Something strange is going on in Palizzolo. Matteo Teresi, Lawyer/Journalist at the local paper will let nothing come in the way of finding out just what is going on in his small town. Will he find the truth or will his enemies get the best of him?
     I actually picked up this book specifically seeking works of Italian Authors. I was pleasantly surprised when I started to read "The Sect of Angels." A quick, fast read, you'll be turning the pages, laughing hysterically and wondering what the hell people were thinking back then. The Author clearly states this book is not factual in any way and explains the origin for the name and an excerpt used to structure the premises of the book. (So don't get too wrapped up in the scandals) I thought of the characters as an inappropriate play on the characters from "Grumpy Old Men." If you're into that type of humor you will definitely enjoy this book!
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Yet another work of fiction where rape and sexual abuse serve as a plot device so that a man who acts like a decent human being can be portrayed as an injured, unjustly treated hero. Ho-hum.

This one is set in 1901 in Palizzolo, Italy, and the "hero" is Matteo Teresi, an already unpopular lawyer who sets out to discover what lies behind the rumours of a cholera epidemic that sweep through the town. It turns out that the real "outbreak" is one of pregnancy in four pious young women.

Based on historical events, the story confirms that nothing has changed in over a century: victims are treated as sluts, then dismissed — while those who take their defense are viewed as troublemakers, shit-stirrers and conspirationists.

Reading this was such a slog... The writing is very flat, and everything remains superficial, without depth of feeling, thought or perception. Too much noise and little substance. I'm giving it 2 stars only because I managed to finish it.
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Loosely based on real events from the early 1900s, this tells the story of a cult of Sicilian priests who prey on young women and the attorney who exposes them.  

I had difficulty with this book.  Although based on a serious topic, a good part of it read, to me, like a farce.  And, yes, all those names!!!  The ending sadly reflected what seems so often to be reality in situations like this one.
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I enjoy the premise of fiction based upon true events - and Camilleri makes use of an event from 1901, when a lawyer, Matteo Teresi (dc.1970), awaiting a decision on his membership to a private social club, decides to investigate an epidemic of miraculous pregnancies among the towns' young women. 

What the lawyer Teresi will find is a wall of silence built up by key (and often conflicting) elements within the small community - the Church, the Mafia, the Nobility. It is not hard to identify with Teresi, and shake your head at the head-in-the-sand attitude of the simple (yet uniquely characterised) townsfolk who would prefer that the crime be swept under the carpet rather than face the horrible truths - an "enforced community silence on the religious prostitution of their women ..". His investigation leads him to be denounced as a troublemaker, and the more he searches for the truth, the backlash begins and his career is slowly being ruined - "... they were scorching the earth all around him ...".

The real Matteo Teresi was forced to flee to America (1907) where he became an advocate of Italian immigrants, writing a number of articles. I was interested in discovering more of the history and the person of the real Matteo Teresi, but found very little on him except for a number of articles he had written. I found even less on the real-life events, which I have narrowed down to quite possibly have taken place in the town of Alia in the provence of Palermo c.1901.
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Stunning, heartfelt and humourous - the tangled interests in a small town where four young girls are suddenly pregnant draws the local priests , rich people and the local politicians into a furore - and they hate one particular lawyer who tends to represent the poor and peasants of the town - who congregate at one church too. But this all blows up when Teseri starts to uncover the secret of the Church's handling of what seems to emerge as a conspiracy of silence around priests persuading young girls of the religious sanctity of what they are doing. In the end, the town - rich and poor, victims and even local highway crooks gang up on him - his newsheet is closed, he is struck off. Off he goes to his family in the USA. It is based, Camilieri tells us, on a real case in rural Italy years ago  it's the telling of it that is so brilliant - yes, sometimes the harsh humour unsettled me -  could these girls, so easily deluded find a way to manage the aftermath of what has happened? Where's the humour. But the novel is actually underlaid with rage - at the small time prejudices and drawn-out ridiculous quarrels that last for generations. A tour de force in its way - hard thinking, humour and deft characterisations - excellent ..
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I had a hard time slogging through the beginning of this book because there were so many names thrown out.  I found it difficult to follow the story because I was trying to keep all of the characters straight, and then all of the names of the priests and their churches were added. Ultimately I did find the dialogue between the men at the meeting amusing but was happy to move on to the rest of the story. Even though the blurb about the book lays out the basic facts of the story it was so well written that I still didn't imagine all the twists and turns or how it would end.  I have already started talking to my friends and family about the book and trying to find information about the actual events that the story is based on.
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This book for me was a little hard to read. There were so many names that I found it hard to remember who was who. If you can get past that, the story is quite amusing. It is based on true evevts that took place in a small Sicilian town.  It was well written and very interesting. 
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Andrea Camilleri often uses real events to inspire his character driven writing. The Sect of Angels is a gem of a novel which grew from events in a Sicilian town in 1901. It depicts the unholy trinity of Nobility, Church and Mafioso elements that work together for mutual benefit but will little thought to the general public. Camilleri is an advocate of the common folk not those deemed their masters, spiritual guides and enforcers.
It is a tale of hypocrisy, unholy symbioses, closed societies and bestial famille alliances. 
The ruling classes are undermined when two respected families learn independently that their daughters have fallen pregnant but neither girl will not disclose the father. To save face, dishonour and public gossip they hide away while the local doctor rallies around. This leads to a number of signals that are misinterpreted to the point that their imposed quarantine is viewed as being due to cholera.
This creates a number of interesting episodes with the dangers of travel being highlighted. This is a wonderful distraction but it does lay the foundation to plot developments later.
It brings to the fore a Captain Montagnet to reinstate law and order. Resented as neither a local man nor open to political persuasion. Before his arrival the most hated man in town was a lawyer, Matteo Teresi.
They work well together with deferent motives, Teresi is seen as anti-clerical and writes a newsletter highlighting some of the establishments excesses.
While in tandem they solve the mystery of the unexplained pregnancies and wider corruption. The mayor outwardly pleased feels his power base has been undermined and the bishop as a loss to deal with implied corruption in the church.
I loved the bit about rendering unto Caesar.
Once the official police officer is prompted away the power struggle resumes. Montagnet warns Teresi to watch his back but the battles appear to begin each day and the three shadowy political powers flex their muscles determined that their kind are not at a loss.
A fascinating reversal of fortune is played out that makes you want to pinch yourself and say but we read that so .....A wonderfully interlaced story with characters believing that money, genes, history and necessity gets things done.
A rally call to people today to look beyond tradition, political masters, class and threats to seek truth as things can slip to a time when things were not better.
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Reading the synopsis of "The Sect of Angels" really tells enough about the story. Matteo Teresi is a lawyer in town that even in the beginning is not in favor with the town, the church and all of the men who follow the strength of the church. Teresi does not care much for that, continues to do what he does, and does things for the right reason. This is Teresi's downfall. A great deal of the motivation for his actions in this short novel is for justice to be served, even if that means becoming the enemy of the church and the men who allow the church to sway their opinions. I know that Teresi also spends a little bit of energy throwing it in people's faces that they have been caught, and this gloating is also part of the cause of his position in the town, but as a whole, Matteo Teresi is the hero of the story. 

Based on a real story from 1901 in a small Sicilian town, this novel moves fast, is written well, and is very funny, entertaining, and interesting. I read it in two sitting, and this is probably a good way to read this novel. For such a small book, there are so many characters, so many names, that it would be very easy to lose your place if you read just 10 pages here and there. Sitting down and reading it all in a day or two is really what allowed me the ability to keep everyone straight (I can count 25 characters off of the top of my head, a huge cast for a book under 200 pages). I do not think that I could have done this if I had to read this in bits and pieces. The good part about sitting down and reading most of it at once is that it is very funny, very entertaining, not laugh out loud funny but like a clever comedy of errors type thing. Even from the first chapter, with the meeting of The Honor and Family Social Club to run an election to see if Teresi should become a member to the very end of the novel, there are so many little plays and misunderstandings that it all becomes much more lighthearted than the gravity of the main plot. 

I enjoyed all of this novel, and Andrea Camilleri is a very good writer, strong with pace and storytelling ability. If you have never read him or want to read a story that you normally would not read, this is a good one. 

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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The Sect of Angels written by Andrea Camilleri was not a favorite book for me to read. I expected the frivolity of the written chaos in a humorous way among the Honor and Family Social Club and also the various interactions of personalities and villagers during the story, set in 1901, Sicily.  The focus of the story is whether to accept Teresi's request for admission to the members of Honor and Family Social Club. He is a lawyer and the other members, priests and noblemen,  are reluctant to let him join. What are they afraid he will uncover among their group?   But once the story revealed the debauchery of the priests and the treatment of the young women, I felt ill, then angry.  After reading the authors note at the end and realizing it was based on truth and was covered up by this religious order, I am feeling disturbed. How could the author let such a terrible actual event be treated like a light and frivolous mystery?   " The penance is like the sin", how sad and true!!
Publication Date March 12, 2019
Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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It was a rollicking and humorous story, an amusing frenzy filled with a large and vivid cast of Sicilians. It was merely entertainment, and then it wasn’t. The seriousness of the story gradually becomes apparent, with ever increasing gravity, and it becomes even more shocking when one finds that the story was based on true events.  It was a very worthy read.  

This ebook was provided by NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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I was drawn right in to the latest book you Andrea CamelleriBased on a true story it comes alive with humor sadness the aura of Scilly. Characters are  so well written so true to life  .Hiighly recommend.#netgalley #Europa
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Andrea Camilleri is one of those writers I can't stay away from too long. I'm always looking for his next Inspector Montalbano books, and have read one of two of his others. I had no idea that The Sect Of Angels was coming out, so the second I saw it on NetGalley, I requested it, thinking that I wouldn't have a chance of getting it. Later that day, I had a nice early Christmas surprise in my email, thanks to the good people at Europa Editions.

When lawyer Matteo Teresi discovers that several young, unmarried, underage girls are all two months pregnant, he sets out to find out who the fathers are. During his investigations, he finds out that there is something sinister going on at several of the local churches. Based on a true story and set in 1901, Camilleri describes the story with humour, pace and quality. The plot is fantastic, and very fitting with today's society as well. The main characters are very vivid and believable, and the rest of the cast, although large in number, are not just background artists.

I have no negative things to say about this book. I loved it from start to finish. I will admit to getting quite angry at the end of the story, but I don't want to spoil the book for you! Enjoy it!
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The true story this book is based on is fascinating; I highly recommend reading the author's note at the end of the book, where he discusses the true events that inspired this novel. 

Comedy switches to the grotesque in this story, and it's very much a social commentary on small town life. People of the town go to great lengths to keep the status-quo, even if it means sweeping crimes under the rug and using an innocent man as a scapegoat. This is a well-written book, and brings to light a scandal that has been mostly forgotten about and under-reported. 

I would love to see this story from one of the girls' point of view, and for there to be more psychological exploration into the men who decided to use God and the church to commit these crimes. 

I think fans of Andrea Camilleri will enjoy this, and I think this book will bring him new fans as well.
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Andrea Camilleri is a master storyteller and one of my favourite writer. I read all his books in Italian and was curious to see how his unique mix of Italian and Sicilian dialect could be translated into English.
I can say that the translator did a very good job: the characters and the descriptions are lively and engaging. Something is lost in the translation but the style is the same I'm used to read in Italian.
As for the book is engaging, entertaining and a real page turner.
The setting is vivid and colourful, the characters are well described.
Even if I already read this book I read it again and it was a really pleasant reading experience.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to Europa Editions and Netgalley for this ARC
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