When you’re a loan shark with an open liking for younger women, the occasional death threat maybe isn’t so alarming.
After finding his father dead, Arturo Barletta is quick to open up about the late Cosimo Barletta’s collection of enemies as well as young lovers. Which, to Inspector Montalbano’s dismay, means that the list of potential murderers is a long one. Hacking away at that list should be top priority, but a man is only human, and distractions pile up for Montalbano: Cosimo’s beautiful daughter, Giovanna, seems intent on gaining his full attention during the investigation, and, at home, a well-spoken vagabond with a mysterious past has made his acquaintance. Montalbano also makes the mistake of mentioning this man to his long-term partner, Livia, who insists on regular updates. A thorough search of Cosimo’s home reveals that he enjoyed keeping records of death threats made against him as well as X-rated photographs of the women he slept with. When blonde hairs are found in Cosimo’s bed, Montalbano hopes to use the photographs to find a match—and that leads him to Stella Lasorella. Of course, she insists she wasn’t there the night of the murder. She also paints a very disturbing picture of her ex-lover—one of manipulation, blackmail, and worse. Cosimo might have felt rich and powerful enough to stay in control, but the details of his murder, as well as one intimate set of letters, suggest he had a weakness. The investigation is not without its humorous moments—the photographs have an overwhelming effect on the poor men who must study them—which are classic for Camilleri (The Revolution of the Moon, 2017, etc.), but it also brings out a vulnerable side to our steadfast investigator. The mind games Montalbano plays with Giovanna will keep the pages turning, and as the more disturbing layers of the case are revealed, even Montalbano is moved to introspection: “His was loneliness crowded by all his colleagues in the police department, but it was still loneliness.”
Expect the ending to make you squirm, though you have to admire Camilleri’s ability to disarm horror with his particular charm; the town of Vigàta quietly soldiers on.