When the distressed manager of a robbed supermarket winds up dead after being questioned, a seasoned investigator and his team are quick to discover that this crime has many layers.
Inspector Montalbano is celebrating his 58th birthday at the start of this 20th installment (A Beam of Light, 2015, etc.), though he's easily distracted from it thanks to an insatiable appetite, an encounter with an enraged driver, and a robbery call from store manager Borsellino, who curiously seems more upset at the police than about the money stolen overnight. When Montalbano arrives at the market to help out officers Augello and Fazio, he finds a man so terrified of the police’s inquiries that he believes “you want to see me sentenced to death!” But Montalbano can’t deny that the lack of forced entry seems suspicious. Was Borsellino aware of plans for the robbery? It’s no secret that this business—along with many of the businesses in Sicily’s Piano Lanterna—is owned by a powerful Mafia family, the Cuffaros. With their initial questioning complete, Montalbano returns with his officers to the station in Vigàta, where he has another matter to deal with: the enraged driver from earlier, Giovanni Strangio, whom he had arrested, has turned out to be the son of the province president. Montalbano knows better than most that the interests of local politicians and the Mafia are steadily aligned; the hoops he’ll have to jump through to get anything done in either case are not lost on him. But frustrations turn deadly serious when Borsellino is found hanged in his office that same evening. Montalbano has barely digested another helping of birthday octopus when Strangio is back in his presence—calm this time—in order to report the violent murder of his live-in girlfriend, Mariangela. Both deaths raise red flags, and Montalbano must resort to late-night sleuthing to catch suspected killers when they least expect it. And while this tale may have overarching themes, the small clues and revelations are what make it special.
Camilleri’s trusty inspector keeps things lighthearted while catching powerful men with their pants down; you can trust in his razor-sharp investigative mind even as basic skills amusingly escape him.