In the long title story that opens this collection, Camilleri shows sardonic Sicilian Inspector Montalbano, years before he became rumpled and stricken by a perpetual midlife crisis, with vigor and swag.
Office gossip tips young Salvo Montalbano that he's about to be promoted. He's unpleasantly surprised to learn that he won't be staying in his beloved Mascalippa but consigned to Vigàta, known for its heavy Mafia population. When his girlfriend, Mery, finds out the news, she hangs up on him. The blunt effrontery of Vigàta's citizens is a challenge, as are the quirks of his new colleagues. Montalbano feels cornered into arresting a young woman who seems dumbstruck with fright but is brandishing a revolver and wants to kill a judge. The girl, Rosanna Monaco, a domestic who's barely an adult, touches Montalbano's heart. He finds trouble at her home, along with a secret lover. Intuition helps him to unravel the crime, whose solution brings him no pleasure. The novel-length story, even longer than some of Montalbano's 19 previous cases (A Beam of Light, 2015, etc.), is supplemented by an additional 20 short stories from various points in Montalbano's career. Notable among these are "Mortally Wounded," about a twisty murder probe, and "The Cat and the Goldfinch," which features some delightfully offbeat character portraits.
Series fans will especially enjoy learning the origins of Montalbano and company. Though the title story is a bit low-stakes, newcomers may be sufficiently intrigued by Camilleri's droll humor and nifty storytelling to check out the rest of the series.