A dearth of evidence and an abundance of fools confound Sicilian sleuth Salvo Montalbano.
Inspector Montalbano’s fourth case begins with an inconvenient funeral and a squabble with Livia, his hot-tempered mistress. The latter concerns a snafu in the couple’s planned adoption of a waif named Francois (The Snack Thief, p. 428). The former requires a three-hour drive with Montalbano’s reckless subordinate Gallo behind the wheel to pay respects to the deceased wife of a distant friend. Characteristically, Montalbano is annoyed about the trip and forthright in expressing this annoyance. Via an odd sequence of events, he discovers the body of a recently murdered blond. The twisty plot follows his attempts first to control the investigation from afar, then, once he abandons that strategy, to learn the identity of the victim and reconcile numerous inconsistencies about the crime: the condition of the body, the state of the house it was found in, and varying reports about the blond’s character. Nearly everyone describes her as a devoted wife, a prominent doctor, yet the crime scene indicates rough sex. Disagreements with the similarly abrasive local inspector lead to Montalbano’s removal from the case. But when the police target an innocent man as the killer and later shoot him, conscience draws Montalbano back.
Camilleri has ample opportunity to showcase Montalbano’s droll misanthropy in his shaggiest adventure to date.