Malta is a small, and I mean small, country in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Its location is about 60 miles south of Sicily off the boot of Italy. The country is often a dot on maps and many have not really heard of the country. People may not even realize that the Maltese Cross is a symbol used for Veterans of Foreign Wars and often by Fireman. It’s an island I have a lot of interest in due to its rich and fascinating history and the fact my father was from the country.
Thus when I saw author Rosanne Dingli’s book, Death in Malta, I know I’d want to read the book. As I read the description of the book and saw a character shared the same last name as me, Micallef, I knew I had to read the novel even more. As I read the novel I came to find that Micallef is not the only name found in multiples within the Maltese phone book.
Death in Malta will take the reader into the world of fictional author Gregory Worthington as he comes to Malta to write his next great novel. Worthington is a writer of suspense novels and has the ability to write vivid stories that disturb some, and one of those people is his estranged wife Maggie.
As Worthington gets settled on the main island he will find himself meeting many within the small village he chose to live in. These people range from the local bar keeper, the local clergy and the blacksmith. The great thing about Malta’s past for this Australian author is at one time the country was a British Protectorate, thus many speak English. This will help him with the people, and eventually lead him to a story. A story that he will find is right underneath the roof of the small home he rents.
There is a story within the village of a young boy who one day just disappeared. This is something that is a rare occurrence on the island and especially in a small village. People searched for the boy and he was never found. Worthington will use this as a basis of his book as he learns about the homes previous occupants. A simple wine maker and his wife who seemed a bit mad, and who had one point may have harmed her eldest son. A woman who was heard yelling at the boy leading to run from home for long stretches at a time to avoid her wrath. She even went as far as locking the boy within a dark underground storage area to teach him a lesson. It’s this mystery that gets the writers creative blood boiling and will lead him down a path; he should possibly lie within the history of the islands.
Among the people the writer meets will be Doctor Phineas Micallef who has moved to the small village as he escaped one of the larger cities. The question will be did he escape or was he forced to leave. At a social gathering at the doctor’s home he will meet a woman, Patricia, who will take his breath away. She will help him explore the island more, help him find himself, and help him learn more about Maltese culture.
The book has no real time frame mentioned but as Worthington’s computer seems to have a dot matrix printer it must have been in the 1970’s or early 1980’s. You get the understanding of the type of printer when there are references to perforated sheets from the printer and need to tear pages apart. This does not distract at all from the story and just puts it into a bit of perspective.
Author Rosanne Dingli does a tremendous job in pointing out the culture of many of the Maltese people. She also takes the reader deep into the psyche of the people and the customs on the islands. You will find yourself marveling at the people and what could be their “quaint” customs. You learn about the homes, festivals and most importantly the way they drive. I say this as I witnessed some of those driving skills on a visit to the island and it can cause a passenger to be a bit nervous. The use of the busses is also mentioned and they are just as reliable and inexpensive today as the period of the book.
What really comes through in this book is not just a love of Malta, but for Worthington’s love of his homeland Australia. Dingli does a beautiful job of telling the readers about both countries, never truly painting either in a bad light. You get the feeling either place is one you would want to visit or live. As you read about the travels and searching for truth on the main characters story you wonder what happened to the boy. You discover the great character devlopment and find some great interactions and how one culture can differ from another. You wonder about the reactions of others within the book and what mysteries may lay under the earth of this small country that is so full of history why did he chose this story. The only way to find out is to read Death in Malta, and the great addition to the novel is at times we get a peek into the story that Worthington is writing which adds to the suspense of the book.