The victim in Inspector Salvo Montalbano’s tenth case (The Paper Moon, 2008, etc.) has been waiting six years in a chest in an illegally constructed apartment.
It’s not easy to find a Sicilian beach house for rent during August. So when his girlfriend Livia, denied a vacation with the inspector by his colleague’s change of summer plans, insists that he find a rental for her friend Laura, Montalbano’s proud of his discovery, until the plagues begin: cockroaches, mice, spiders, floods. Finally Laura’s toddler disappears—into a pit, it turns out, that leads to a secret ground-floor apartment constructed and buried in defiance of the building code. It’s the exact duplicate of Laura’s apartment, except for the corpse in the chest. The victim, 16-year-old Caterina Morreale, was obviously assaulted and killed by someone who had access to the apartment on the day it was hidden from view to await a government amnesty on illegal construction. Was the killer well-connected contractor Michele Spitaleri, who liked his girls young? Foreman Angelino Dipasquale? Mason Gaspare Miccichè? Watchman Filiberto Attanasio, a habitual offender? Or Ralf Speciale, late stepson of the German businessman for whom the apartment was built? With help from a most unusual young woman, Montalbano battles the usual corruption, incompetence and indifference, compounded this time by heat that repeatedly moves him to strip to his underwear. He comes up with a solution as satisfying as it is unsurprising.
Despite its noirish undertones, the perfect beach read for those lucky enough to have found suitable accommodations.