A Beam Of Light

Paperback | September 1, 2015

byAndrea CamilleriTranslated byStephen Sartarelli

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In time for Andrea Camilleri’s 90th birthday, the nineteenth installment in his irresistible New York Times–bestselling Inspector Montalbano Mystery series

“In Sicily, where people do things as they please, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a bona fide folk hero.”—The New York Times Book Review

 
When Inspector Montalbano falls under the charms of beautiful gallery owner Marian, his longtime relationship with Livia comes under threat. Meanwhile, he is also troubled by a strange dream as three crimes demand his attention: the assault and robbery of a wealthy merchant's young wife, shady art deals, and a search for arms traffickers that leads him deep into the countryside, where the investigation takes a tragic turn.

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In time for Andrea Camilleri’s 90th birthday, the nineteenth installment in his irresistible New York Times–bestselling Inspector Montalbano Mystery series“In Sicily, where people do things as they please, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a bona fide folk hero.”—The New York Times Book Review When Inspector Montalbano falls under the char...

Andrea Camilleri is the bestselling author of the popular Inspector Montalbano Mystery series, as well as a number of historical novels that take place in Sicily. He lives in Italy.Stephen Sartarelli is an award-winning translator and poet who lives in France.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 7.7 × 5 × 0.8 inPublished:September 1, 2015Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143126431

ISBN - 13:9780143126430

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Praise for Andrea Camilleri and the Montalbano Series“Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano mysteries might sell like hotcakes in Europe, but these world-weary crime stories were unknown here until the oversight was corrected (in Stephen Sartarelli’s salty translation) by the welcome publication of The Shape of Water . . . This savagely funny police procedural . . . prove[s] that sardonic laughter is a sound that translates ever so smoothly into English.”—The New York Times Book Review“Hailing from the land of Umberto Eco and La Cosa Nostra, Montalbano can discuss a pointy-headed book like Western Attitudes Toward Death as unflinchingly as he can pore over crime-scene snuff photos. He throws together an extemporaneous lunch of shrimp with lemon and oil as gracefully as he dodges advances from attractive women.”—Los Angeles Times“[Camilleri’s mysteries] offer quirky characters, crisp dialogue, bright storytelling—and Salvo Montalbano, one of the most engaging protagonists in detective fiction . . . Montalbano is a delightful creation, an honest man on Sicily’s mean streets.”—USA Today“Camilleri is as crafty and charming a writer as his protagonist is an investigator.”—The Washington Post Book World“Like Mike Hammer or Sam Spade, Montalbano is the kind of guy who can’t stay out of trouble . . . Still, deftly and lovingly translated by Stephen Sartarelli, Camilleri makes it abundantly clear that under the gruff, sardonic exterior our inspector has a heart of gold, and that any outburst, fumbles, or threats are made only in the name of pursuing truth.”—The Nation“Camilleri can do a character’s whole backstory in half a paragraph.” —The New Yorker“Subtle, sardonic, and molto simpatico: Montalbano is the Latin re-creation of Philip Marlowe, working in a place that manages to be both more and less civilized than Chandler’s Los Angeles.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)“Wit and delicacy and the fast-cut timing of farce play across the surface . . . but what keeps it from frothing into mere intellectual charm is the persistent, often sexually bemused Montalbano, moving with ease along zigzags created for him, teasing out threads of discrepancy that unravel the whole.”—Houston Chronicle“Sublime and darkly humorous . . . Camilleri balances his hero’s personal and professional challenges perfectly and leaves the reader eager for more.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)“The books are full of sharp, precise characterizations and with subplots that make Montalbano endearingly human . . . Like the antipasti that Montalbano contentedly consumes, the stories are light and easily consumed, leaving one eager for the next course.”—New York Journal of Books“The reading of these little gems is fast and fun every step of the way.”—The New York SunAlso by Andrea CamilleriHunting SeasonThe Brewer of PrestonTHE INSPECTOR MONTALBANO SERIESThe Shape of WaterThe Terra-Cotta DogThe Snack ThiefVoice of the ViolinExcursion to TindariThe Smell of the NightRounding the MarkThe Patience of the SpiderThe Paper MoonAugust HeatThe Wings of the SphinxThe Track of SandThe Potter’s FieldThe Age of DoubtThe Dance of the SeagullTreasure HuntAngelica’s SmileGame of MirrorsA Beam of LightA PENGUIN MYSTERY© Elvira GiorgianniA BEAM OF LIGHTAndrea Camilleri, a bestseller in Italy and Germany, is the author of the popular Inspector Montalbano mystery series as well as historical novels that take place in nineteenth-century Sicily. His books have been made into Italian TV shows and translated into thirty-two languages. His thirteenth Montalbano novel, The Potter’s Field, won the Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger Award and was long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.Stephen Sartarelli is an award-winning translator and the author of three books of poetry.PENGUIN BOOKSAn imprint of Penguin Random House LLC375 Hudson StreetNew York, New York 10014penguin.comCopyright © 2012 by Sellerio EditoreTranslation copyright © 2015 by Stephen SartarelliPenguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.Originally published in Italian as Una lama di luce by Sellerio Editore, Palermo.LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATACamilleri, Andrea.[Lama di luce English]A beam of light / Andrea Camilleri; translated by Stephen Sartarelli.pages cmISBN 978-0-698-15438-41. Montalbano, Salvo (Fictitious character)—Fiction. I. Sartarelli, Stephen, 1954– translator. II. Title.PQ4863.A3894L3613 2015853’.914—dc232015011921This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.Cover design by Paul BuckleyCover illustration by Andy Bridge1Since the first light of dawn, the morning had shown itself to be erratic and whimsical. And so, by contagion, Montalbano’s behavior would also prove at the very least unstable that morning. When this happened, it was best to see as few people as possible.The more the years passed, the more sensitive he became to variations in the weather, just as greater or lesser humidity will affect the pain in an old man’s bones. And he was less and less able to control himself, to hide his excesses of cheer and gloom.In the time he’d taken to go from his house in Marinella to the Casuzza district—about ten miles consisting of dirt paths only good for tanks and of little country roads slightly less wide than a car—the sky had turned from light pink to gray, and then from gray to a faded blue before stopping momentarily at a hazy off-white that blurred the outlines of things and muddled one’s vision.He’d received a phone call at eight o’clock that morning, just as he was finishing his shower. He’d slept late because he knew he didn’t have to go to the office that day.His mood darkened. He hadn’t been expecting any phone calls. Who could it be busting his chops first thing in the morning?Theoretically, there shouldn’t have been anyone at the station other than the telephone operator, since it was supposed to be a special day in Vigàta.Special in the sense that the illustrious Minister of the Interior, returning from a visit to the island of Lampedusa—where the reception centers for immigrants (yes, they had the gall to call them that!) were no longer in a position to house so much as another one-month-old baby, being packed tighter than a can of sardines—had expressed his intention to inspect the makeshift tent-camps that had been set up in Vigàta, even though these were likewise stuffed to the gills, with the added aggravation that the poor wretches were forced to sleep on the ground and relieve themselves outside.For this reason Hizzoner the C’mishner Bonetti-Alderighi had mobilized the entire police forces of Montelusa as well as Vigàta to line the streets the high dignitary was to travel, so that his tender ears would not hear the boos, Bronx cheers, and cusswords (called “protests” in proper Italian) of the population, but only the applause of four or five assholes paid for that express purpose.Without a second thought, Montalbano had dumped the whole business onto the shoulders of Mimì Augello, his second-in-command, and had taken advantage of the situation to enjoy a day off. The mere sight of the Minister of the Interior on television was enough to set the inspector’s blood boiling, so he could only imagine what it would be like seeing him personally in person.The whole thing in the unstated hope that, out of respect for a representative of the government, nobody in Vigàta or environs would kill anybody or commit any other crimes. The criminals would certainly be sensitive enough not to make trouble on a day of such joy.So who could it be trying to reach him on the phone?He decided not to answer. But the telephone, after falling briefly silent, started ringing again.And what if it was Livia? Maybe needing to tell him something important? There was no getting around it: He had to pick up the receiver.“Hallo, Chief? Catarella sum.”Montalbano froze. Catarella, speaking Latin? What was happening to the universe? Was the end of the world at hand? Surely he must not have heard right.“Wha’d you say?”“I sai’, ‘Catarella ’ere,’ Chief.”He breathed a sigh of relief. He’d heard wrong. The universe fell back into place.“What is it, Cat?”“Chief, I gatta tell yiz afore anyting ilse ’at iss a long an’ compiclated story.”Montalbano’s foot stretched out and pulled a chair close to him, and he sat down in it.“I’m all ears, Cat.”“Aright. So, seein’ ’at ’iss mornin’ yoys truly betooked ’isself onna orders o’ ’Specter Augello insomuch as they’s aspectin’ the ’rrival o’ the heliocopter carryin’ Hizzoner the Minister o’—”“Did it arrive?”“I dunno, Chief. I’m not appraised o’ the situation.”“Why not?”“I’m not appraised cuz I’m not at the scene.”“So where are you?”“At anutter scene called Casuzza districk, Chief, which is allocated near the ol’ railroad crossin’ ’at comes after—”“I know where Casuzza is, Cat. But are you going to tell me what you’re doing there or aren’t you?”“Beckin’ yer partin’, Chief, bu’ if ya keep buttin’ inna wha’ I’s sayin’ . . .”“Sorry, go on.”“So anyways, at a soitan point in time the foresaid Isspecter Augello gotta phone call true our swishboard insowhere I’s replaced by a replacement, Afficer Filippazzo, foist name Michele, insomuch azza foresaid twissèd ’is leg—”“Wait a second, who’s the aforesaid? Inspector Augello or Filippazzo?”He shuddered at the thought of Mimì hurting himself, which would mean he would have to go and welcome the minister himself.“Filippazzo, Chief, ’oo fer the foresaid reason couldna be prescient fer activist soivice, an’ so ’e passed it onna Fazio, ’oo, when ’e ’oid da foresaid phone call, tol’ me to fughettabout the aspectation o’ the heliocopter ann’at I’s asposta go immidiotly at once to Casuzza districk. Which . . .”Montalbano realized it was going to take half the morning for him to grasp any of what Catarella was saying.“Listen, Cat, tell you what. I’m gonna fill myself in on this stuff and then call you back in five minutes, okay?”“But should I keep my sill-phone on or off?”“Turn it off.”He called Fazio. Who answered right away.“Has the minister arrived?”“Not yet.”“Catarella rang me but after talking for fifteen minutes I still hadn’t managed to understand a thing.”“I can explain what it’s about, Chief. Some peasant called our switchboard to let us know he found a coffin in his field.”“Full or empty?”“I couldn’t quite figure that out. It was a bad connection.”“Why’d you send Catarella?”“It didn’t seem like such a big deal.”He thanked Fazio and called Catarella back.“Is the coffin full or empty?”“Chief, the caffin in quession’s got iss lid coverin’ it an’ theretofore the contense o’ the foresaid caffin in’t possible to know whass inside.”“So you didn’t open it yourself.”“Nossir, Chief, issomuch as there warn’t no orders consoinin’ the raisin’ o’ the foresaid lid. But if you order me to open it, I’ll open it. Bu’ iss useless, if y’ask me.”“Why?”“Cuz the caffin in’t empty.”“How do you know?”“I know cuz the peasant farmer jinnelman ’oo’d be the owner o’ the land whereats the foresaid caffin happens a be allocated, an ’ooz name is Annibale Lococo, son o’ Giuseppe, an’ ’oo’s right ’ere aside me, he lifted the lid jess anuff t’ see ’at the caffin was accappied.”“By whom?”“By a dead poisson’s body, Chief.”So it was a big deal after all, contrary to what Fazio had thought.“All right, wait for me there.”And so, cursing the saints, he’d had to get in the car and drive off.The coffin was the kind for third-class corpses, the poorest of the poor, of rough-hewn wood without so much as a coat of varnish.A corner of white linen stuck out from under the lid, which had been laid down crooked.Montalbano bent down to get a better look. Gripping it with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, he pulled it out a little more and was able to see the initials BA embroidered on it and intertwined.Annibale Lococo was sitting on the edge of the coffin, down near the feet, a rifle on his shoulder, and smoking half a Tuscan cigar. He was fiftyish and sinewy, with sunbaked skin.Catarella was about one step away but standing at attention, unable to utter a word, overwhelmed by emotion at conducting an investigation alongside the inspector.All around them, a desolate landscape, more rock than earth, a few rare trees suffering from millennia of water deprivation, shrubs of sorghum, huge clumps of wild weeds. About half a mile away, a solitary little house, perhaps the one that lent the place its name.Near the coffin, in the dust that had once been earth, one could clearly see the tracks of a small truck’s tires and the shoeprints of two men.“Is this land yours?” Montalbano asked Lococo.“Land? What land?” said Lococo, screwing up his face at him.“This land, where we’re standing right now.”“Ah, you call this land, sir?”“What do you grow on it?”Before answering, the peasant glared at him again, took off his beret, scratched his head, took his cigar out of his mouth, spit on the ground in disdain, then put his Tuscan half-cigar between his lips.“Nothing. What the hell do you think’ll grow on it? Nothing ever takes here. This land’s cursed. But I come an’ hunt on it. It’s full o’ hares.”“Was it you who discovered the coffin?”“Yessir.”“When?”“This mornin’, roun’ six-thirty. An’ I called you immediately on my cell phone.”“Did you come through here yesterday evening?”“No, sir, I ain’t been true here for tree days.”“So you don’t know when they left the coffin here.”“’A’ss right.”“Did you look inside?”“Of course. Why, didn’t you? I’s curious. I noticed that the lid wasn’t screwed on an’ so I lifted it up a little. There’s a dead body inside, covered by a sheet.”“Tell me the truth: Did you raise the sheet to have a look at the face?”“Yessir.”“Man or woman?”“Man.”“Did you recognize him?”“Never seen ’im before in my life.”“Do you have any idea why anyone might want to leave a coffin in your field?”“If I had any ideas like that, I’d start writing novels.”The man seemed sincere.“All right. Please stand up. Catarella, raise the lid.”Catarella knelt beside the body-box and raised the lid slightly. Then he turned his head suddenly and twisted his mouth:“Iam fetet,” he said to the inspector.Montalbano leapt backwards in astonishment. So it was true! He hadn’t heard wrong! Catarella spoke Latin!“What did you say?”“I said it already stinks.”Oh no, you don’t! This time he’d heard clearly! There was no mistaking it.“You’re trying to fuck with me!” he exploded, deafening himself first and foremost with his shout.By way of reply, a faraway dog began barking.Catarella immediately let the coffin lid drop and stood up, red as a rooster.“Me? Wit’ yiz? ’Ow can y’ever amagine such a ting? Never in a million years would I ever . . .” Unable to finish, he buried his face in his hands and started wailing:“O me miserum! O me infelicem!”Montalbano could no longer see straight and lost control, jumping on Catarella, grabbing him by the neck and shaking him as if he were a tree whose ripest fruit he wanted to make fall to the ground.“Mala tempora currunt!” Lococo said philosophically, taking a pull on his cigar.Montalbano froze in terror.So now Lococo was talking Latin too? Had they all gone back in time without noticing? But then how was it that they were wearing modern clothes instead of tunics or togas?At this point the coffin lid moved from the inside, crashed to the ground with a loud thud, and the corpse, which looked like a mummy, began to stand up very slowly.“You, Montalbano: Have you no respect for the dead?” the corpse asked, dark with anger as it removed the shroud from its face, becoming immediately recognizable.It was Hizzoner the C’mishner Bonetti-Alderighi.Montalbano remained in bed for a long time, thinking about the dream he’d just had and feeling terribly spooked.Not, of course, because the corpse had turned out to be Bonetti-Alderighi or because Catarella and Lococo had started speaking Latin, but because the dream had been treacherous, deceitful—that is, one of those where the sequence of events follows strict patterns of logic and chronology. And every detail, every element appears in a light that increases the sense of reality. And the boundaries between dream and reality end up becoming too subtle, practically invisible. At least in the last part the logic disappeared, otherwise it would have been one of those dreams where after some time has passed you’re unable to tell whether what you remember was real or just a dream.Except that there wasn’t a single thing that was real in the dream he’d just had, not even the arrival of the minister. And therefore, the day that lay ahead was not a day off. He had to go to work. Like any other day.He got up and opened the window.The sky was still half blue, but the other half was changing color, tending towards gray, owing to a blanket of flat, uniform clouds coming in from the sea.He’d just come out of the shower when the phone rang. He went to answer, wetting the floor with the water dripping from his body.It was Fazio.“Chief, sorry to bother you, but—”“What is it?”“The commissioner called. He just got an urgent communication concerning the Minister of the Interior.”“But isn’t he in Lampedusa?”“Yes, but apparently he wants to come and visit the emergency camp in Vigàta. He’s arriving in about two hours by helicopter.”“What a goddamn pain in the ass!”“Wait. The commissioner has put our entire department under the command of Deputy Commissioner Signorino, who’ll be here in about forty-five minutes. I just wanted to let you know.”Montalbano heaved a sigh of relief.“Thanks.”“You, I assume, have no intention of attending.”“You’re right about that.”“What should I tell Signorino?”“That I’m sick in bed with the flu and apologize for my absence. And that I’m quite dutifully twiddling my thumbs. When the minister leaves, call me here, in Marinella.”So the minister’s visit was real after all.Did this mean he’d had a prophetic dream? And if so, was he soon going to find the commissioner in a coffin?No, it was a simple coincidence. There wouldn’t be any others. Especially because, if one really thought about it, there was no chance on earth that Catarella would ever start speaking Latin.The phone rang again.“Hello?”“Sorry, wrong number,” said a woman’s voice, hanging up.But wasn’t that Livia? Why’d she say she had a wrong number? He called her up.“What’s wrong with you?”“Why do you ask?”“Sorry, Livia, but you ring me at home, I answer the phone, and you hang up, saying it’s a wrong number?”“Ah, so it was you!”“Of course it was me!”“But I was so sure you wouldn’t be at home that . . . by the way, what are you doing still at home? Are you unwell?”“I’m perfectly fine! And don’t try to dodge the issue!”“What issue?”“The fact that you didn’t recognize my voice! Does that seem normal to you, that after all these years—”“They weigh heavy on you, don’t they?”“What weighs heavy on me?”“All the years we’ve been together.”In short, they had a nice little row that lasted a good fifteen minutes and more.Afterwards, he dawdled about the house for another half hour in his underpants. Then Adelina arrived and, upon seeing him, got scared.“Oh my God, Isspector, wha’ ss wrong? You sick?”“Adelì, don’t you start in now too. No, I’m not sick, don’t worry. I feel fine. In fact, you know what? Today I’ll be eating at home. What are you going to make for me?”Adelina smiled.“How about I mekka you a nice pasta ’ncasciata?”“Sounds fabulous, Adelì.”“An’ enn tree or four crispy fry mullets?”“Let’s say five and leave it at that.”Heaven had suddenly fallen to earth.He stayed inside for another hour or so, but as soon as an angelic scent began to reach his nostrils from the kitchen, he realized it was hopeless: he would never be able to resist. An empty feeling began to form in the pit of his stomach, the only solution for which was to take a long walk along the beach.When he returned about two hours later, Adelina informed him that Fazio had called to say that the minister had changed his mind and gone straight back to Rome instead of coming to Vigàta first.Montalbano got to the station after four o’clock with a smile on his lips, feeling at peace with himself and the entire world. The miracle of pasta ’ncasciata.He stopped for a moment in front of Catarella who, seeing his boss enter, had sprung to attention.“Tell me something, Cat.”“Yessir, Chief.”“Do you know Latin?”“O’ course, Chief.”Montalbano balked, stunned. He was convinced that Catarella had only made his way, barely, through the compulsory years of schooling.“Did you study it?”“Well, I can’t rilly say as how I rilly studied it, as far as studyin’ goes, but I c’n say I know it pritty good.”Montalbano felt more and more astonished.“So how did you do it?”“Do wha’, Chief?”“Come to know Latin?”“Iss one o’ my favorite stories.”“What’s one of your favorite stories?”“The one ’bout Latin an’ ’is magic lamp. You know, where the genius comes out an’ grannit ’is wishes.”The smile returned to Montalbano’s lips. So much the better. Everything was back to normal.2On his desk loomed the inevitable mountain of papers to be signed. Among the personal mail that had come in was a letter inviting Inspector Salvo Montalbano to the inauguration of an art gallery that called itself “Il piccolo porto.” Launching the new enterprise was a show of twentieth-century painters, the very artists he liked. The letter had arrived late, since the inauguration had already taken place the day before.It was the first art gallery ever to open in Vigàta. The inspector slipped the invitation into his jacket pocket. He intended to go and check the place out.A short while later, Fazio came in.“Any news?”“Nothing. But there might have been big news.”“What do you mean?”“Chief, if the minister hadn’t changed his mind and had come here, the whole thing would have been a disaster.”“Why?”“Because the immigrants had organized a violent protest.”“When did you find this out?”“Just before Commissioner Signorino arrived.”“Did you inform him?”“Nah.”“Why not?”“What else could I do, Chief? As soon as he arrived, Signorino had us all line up and advised us all to keep a stiff upper lip and not to create any useless alarms. He told us the television cameras and journalists would be there, and that for this reason we had to be careful to give the impression that everything was working to perfection. So I began to worry that if I were to tell him what I’d been told, he would accuse me of creating useless alarms. So I told our men just to remain on the alert, ready to intervene, but nothing more.”“Well done.”Mimì Augello came in, looking upset.“Salvo, I just got a call from Montelusa.”“So?”“Bonetti-Alderighi was rushed to the hospital a couple of hours ago.”“Really? Why?”“He was feeling bad. Something to do with his heart, apparently.”“But is it serious?”“They don’t know.”“Well, find out and let me know.”Augello left. Fazio’s eyes were fixed on Montalbano.“What’s wrong, Chief?”“What do you mean?”“The moment Inspector Augello told you the news, you turned pale. I wouldn’t think you’d take it so hard.”Could he possibly tell him that for a second he’d seen Bonetti-Alderighi inside the coffin with the shroud covering his face, just as in the dream?He answered Fazio rudely, quite on purpose.“Of course I take it hard! We’re men, aren’t we? What are we, animals?”“Sorry,” said Fazio.They stood there in silence. A few moments later Augello returned.“Good news. Nothing with the heart, nothing serious. Just a case of indigestion. They’ll release him this evening.”Montalbano felt quite relieved inside. In the end, there had been no premonitions in his dream.There wasn’t a single visitor in the art gallery, which was located exactly halfway down the Corso. Montalbano felt selfishly delighted; this way he could enjoy the pictures in total comfort. Fifteen painters were on exhibit, each with one painting. From Mafai, Guttuso, and Pirandello to Donghi, Morandi, and Birolli. A real treat.Out of a small door, behind which there must have been an office, emerged an elegant woman of about forty in a sheath dress—tall, good-looking, with long legs, big eyes, high cheekbones, and long ink-black hair. At first glance, she looked Brazilian.She smiled at him, then approached, hand extended.“You’re Inspector Montalbano, aren’t you? I’ve seen you on television. I’m Mariangela De Rosa—Marian the gallerist, to friends.”Montalbano liked her immediately. It didn’t happen often, but it did happen.“Congratulations. These are very fine paintings.”Marian laughed.“A little too fine and expensive for the Vigatese.”“Indeed, I can’t imagine how a gallery like yours, here in Vigàta, could—”“Inspector, I wasn’t born yesterday. This show is just to attract attention. The next one will feature engravings—still of high quality, of course—but much more affordable.”“I can only wish you the best of luck.”“Thanks. Can I ask whether there’s one painting here that you especially like?”“Yes, but if you want to persuade me to buy it, you’re wasting your time. I’m in no position to—”Marian laughed.“Well, it’s true, that was a self-interested question, but my only interest was in getting to know you better. I have this belief that I can understand a lot about a man by knowing what painters he likes and what authors he reads.”“I once knew a mafioso, author of some forty murders, who would weep with emotion in front of a painting by Van Gogh.”“Don’t be mean to me, Inspector. Care to answer my question?”“All right. I like the Donghi painting, but also the Pirandello. Equally. I don’t think I could choose between them.”Marian looked at him, then closed the two headlights she had for eyes.“So you’re a connoisseur.”It wasn’t a question but a declaration.“Connoisseur, no. But I know what I like.”“Well, you like the right things. Tell me the truth: Do you have some art at home?”“Yes, but nothing of any importance.”“Are you married?”“No, I live alone.”“So will you invite me one day to see your treasures?”“Gladly. And what about you?”“In what sense?”“Are you married?”Marian pursed her beautiful red lips.“I was until five years ago.”“How did you end up in Vigàta?”“But I’m from Vigàta! My parents moved to Milan when I was two and my brother Enrico four. Enrico came back here a few years after graduating, and he now owns a salt mine near Sicudiana.”“And why did you come back?”“Because Enrico and his wife kept insisting . . . I went through a bad patch after my husband . . .”“You don’t have any children?”“No.”“What made you decide to open an art gallery in Vigàta?”“I wanted something to do. But I have a lot of experience, you know. When I was married I had two galleries, small ones, one in Milan and the other in Brescia.”

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Andrea Camilleri and the Montalbano Series“Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano mysteries might sell like hotcakes in Europe, but these world-weary crime stories were unknown here until the oversight was corrected (in Stephen Sartarelli’s salty translation) by the welcome publication of The Shape of Water…This savagely funny police procedural…prove[s] that sardonic laughter is a sound that translates ever so smoothly into English.”—The New York Times Book Review“Hailing from the land of Umberto Eco and La Cosa Nostra, Montalbano can discuss a pointy-headed book like Western Attitudes Toward Death as unflinchingly as he can pore over crime-scene snuff photos. He throws together an extemporaneous lunch of shrimp with lemon and oil as gracefully as he dodges advances from attractive women.”—Los Angeles Times“[Camilleri’s mysteries] offer quirky characters, crisp dialogue, bright storytelling—and Salvo Montalbano, one of the most engaging protagonists in detective fiction…Montalbano is a delightful creation, an honest man on Siciliy’s mean streets.”—USA Today“Camilleri is as crafty and charming a writer as his protagonist is an investigator.”—The Washington Post Book World“Like Mike Hammer or Sam Spade, Montalbano is the kind of guy who can’t stay out of trouble…Still, deftly and lovingly translated by Stephen Sartarelli, Camilleri makes it abundantly clear that under the gruff, sardonic exterior our inspector has a heart of gold, and that any outburst, fumbles, or threats are made only in the name of pursuing truth.”—The Nation“Camilleri can do a character’s whole backstory in half a paragraph.”—The New Yorker“Subtle, sardonic, and molto simpatico: Montalbano is the Latin re-creation of Philip Marlowe, working in a place that manages to be both more and less civilized than chandler’ Los Angeles.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)“Wit and delicacy and the fast-cut timing of farce play across the surface…but what keeps it from frothing into mere intellectual charm is the persistent, often sexually bemused Montalbano, moving with ease along zigzags created for him, teasing out threads of discrepancy that unravel the whole.”—Houston Chronicle“Sublime and darkly humorous…Camilleri balances his hero’s personal and professional challenges perfectly and leaves the reader eager for more.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)“The Montalbano mysteries offer cose dolci to the world-lit lover hankering for a whodunit.”—The Village Voice“In Sicily, where people do things as they please, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a bona fide folk hero.”—The New York Times Book Review“The books are full of sharp, precise characterizations and with subplots that make Montalbano endearingly human…Like the antipasti that Montalbano contentedly consumes, the stories are light and easily consumed, leaving one eager for the next course.”—New York Journal of Books“The reading of these little gems is fast and fun every step of the way.”—The New York Sun“This series is distinguished by Camilleri’s remarkable feel for tragicomedy, expertly mixing light and dark in the course of producing novels that are both comforting and disturbing.”—Booklist