On the treacherously simple surface here, glinting like isinglass, this is a criminal conundrum in which, serial fashion, a number of Sicilian judges are assassinated -- the case becoming the province of Inspector Rogas, a remarkable man who quotes Chesterton and La Bruyere while brooding that he alone has ""principles in a country where almost no one did."" Is it the act of a pharmacist who cooked up some poisoned black rice, served five years, and, now released, claims to have been a victim of the System? Or one of the many cadres on the dark underside of political life? There is a symbolism in the shadow play which also suggests -- as does Sciascia's artfully commonplace style -- Durrenmatt or of course Kafka. With footfalls of conjecture on every dusty street. At the close Sciascia, one of the finest (less known here) Italian writers, makes clear that his little ""fable"" had been written as a pastime which amused him -- and ceased to do so. For interred with Rogas are his concepts of justice and duty and honor which cannot survive in a country where omerta, that conspiracy of silence, becomes a condition of the soul as well as a matter-of-fact proviso of existence. Sciascia's conte is a dark fascinator -- suggestively projected, fastidiously styled.