When members of Vigata's elite are targeted in a series of perfectly executed burglaries, Inspector Montalbano reluctantly takes the case. It soon becomes clear however that more links these privileged few than simply their lost possessions. It isn't long too before Montalbano finds himself taken with one of the victims, the captivatingly beautiful young Angelica. But as the detective's attraction grows - until he can think of little else - a series of strange, anonymous letters claiming responsibility for the thefts begin to arrive.
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Ne en 1925 presd'Agrigente, en Sicile, metteur en scene de theatre, realisateur de television et scenariste, Andrea Camilleris'est fait connaitre tardivement comme romancier, mais avec un succes foudroyant. Auteur culte de la serie des Montalbano, il ecrit parallelement des romans inspires par des documents d'archives.Chez Fayard sont parus"La Concession du telephone" (1999), "La Saison de la chasse" (2001, Prix de traduction Amedee Pichot), "Un filet de fumee" (2002), "Le Roi Zosimo" (2003), "Le Cours des choses" (2005), "La Prise de Makale" (2006), "Prive de titre" (2007), "Les Enquetes du commissaire Collura" (2008), "Petits" "Recits au jour le jour" (2008), "La Couleur du soleil" (2008), "Vous ne savez pas" (2009), "Le Pasteur et ses ouailles" (2009), "Maruzza Musumeci" (2009), "Le Grelot" (2010), "Le Ciel vole" (2010), "Un samedi entre amis" (2011), "Le Garde-barriere ("2012), "Le Coup de filet" (2012), "Le Neveu du Negus" (2013) et "Grand Cirque Taddei" (2014).
Stephen Sartarelli has translated widely from French and Italian, most recently works by Andrea Camilleri and Gabriele D Annunzio. His translations have won numerous prizes, including the Raiziss-De Palchi Award of the Academy of American Poets for" Songbook: Selected Poems of Umberto Saba" and the John Florio Award of the UK Society of Authors for "Prince of the Clouds" by Gianni Riotta.
He awoke with a start and sat up in bed, eyes already open. He was sure he’d heard someone talking in his bedroom. And since he was alone in the house, he became alarmed.
Then he started laughing, having remembered that Livia had shown up unannounced at his place that evening. The surprise visit had pleased him immensely, at least at first. And there she was now, sleeping soundly beside him.
A still-violet shaft of the dawn’s very earliest light shone through the window shutter. He let his eyelids droop without bothering to look at the clock, in hopes of getting a few more hours of sleep.
But then his eyes suddenly popped open again. Something had just occurred to him.
If someone had spoken in his bedroom, it could only have been Livia. She’d therefore been talking in her sleep. But this had never happened before. Or perhaps it wasn’t the first time. But if she had in fact talked in her sleep before, she’d done it so quietly that it hadn’t woken him up.
And it was possible she was, at that moment, still in the same dream state and might say a few more words.
So this was an opportunity not to be missed.
People who suddenly start talking in their sleep can’t help but say true things, the truths that they have inside them. He remembered reading that it was impossible to tell lies or stretch the truth in a dream state, because one is defenseless when asleep, as helpless and innocent as a baby.
It was very important not to miss anything of what Livia was saying. Important for two reasons. The first was general in nature, being that a man can live a hundred years at a woman’s side, sleep with her, have children with her, breathe the same air as her, and think he knows her as well as humanly possible, and still, in the end, feel as though he never really knows what she is like deep inside.
The other reason was more specific and immediate in nature.
He carefully got out of bed and went and looked outside through the slats of the shutter. It promised to be a lovely day, without clouds or wind.
Then he went over to Livia’s side of the bed, pulled up a chair, and sat down at the head, as in an all-night vigil at the hospital.
The previous evening—and this was the more specific reason—Livia had raised a big stink in a fit of jealousy, ruining the pleasure he had felt by her surprise visit.
Things had gone as follows.
The telephone had rung and she went to answer.
But as soon as she said hello, a woman’s voice at the other end had said:
“Oh, I’m sorry, I must have the wrong number.”
And she promptly hung up.
And so Livia got it in her head that the caller had been a woman he was having an affair with, that they’d arranged to meet that evening, and that when she’d heard Livia’s voice she’d hung up.
“I guess I rained on your parade, eh? . . . When the cat’s away, the mice will play! . . . Out of sight, out of mind! . . .”
There was no making her see reason, and things ended terribly that evening because Montalbano had reacted badly, disgusted not so much by Livia’s suspicions as by the endless barrage of clichés she kept firing at him.
So Montalbano was now hoping that Livia would say something stupid in her sleep, anything that might give him ammunition for a proper revenge.
He suddenly had a great desire to smoke a cigarette but restrained himself—first, because if Livia woke up and found him smoking in the bedroom, a revolution might break out, and second, because the smoke itself might wake her up.
About two hours later, he got a cramp in his left calf.
To make it go away, he started swinging his leg back and forth and, as a result, ended up dealing the wooden bed frame a violent kick with his bare foot.
It hurt like hell, but he managed to hold back the avalanche of curses that threatened to burst out of him.
The kick had an effect, however, because Livia sighed, moved a little, and then spoke.
Giving first a little laugh, in a full voice with no trace of hoarseness, she said distinctly:
“No, Carlo, not from behind.”
Montalbano nearly fell out of his chair. This was a bit too much of a good thing, for Chrissakes!
A couple of muttered words would have sufficed, just enough for him to build a castle of baseless accusations, Jesuit-like.
But Livia had uttered a whole sentence, loud and clear! Fuck!
As if she had been completely awake.
And it was a sentence that suggested just about everything, even the worst.
Meanwhile, she had never said a word to him about any Carlo. Why not?
If she’d never mentioned him, there must be a reason.
And then, what exactly was it she didn’t want Carlo to do to her from behind?
Did that mean: from in front, okay, but not from behind?
He broke into a cold sweat.
He was tempted to wake Livia up, shake her roughly and, glaring wild-eyed, ask her in an imperious, cop-like voice:
“Who is Carlo? Is he your lover?”
But she was a woman, after all.
And therefore likely to deny everything, even when groggy with sleep. No, that would be a wrong move.
It was best to summon the strength to wait a while and try to broach the subject at the right moment.
But when was the right moment?
Anyway, he would need to have a certain amount of time at his disposal, since it would be a mistake to bring the question up directly. Livia would immediately go on the defensive. No, he needed to take a roundabout approach, without arousing any suspicion.
He decided to go and take a shower.
Going back to bed was now out of the question.
He was drinking his first coffee of the morning when the telephone rang.
By now it was eight o’clock. He wasn’t in the mood to hear about any little murders. If anything, he might kill somebody himself instead, given half a chance.
Preferably someone by the name of Carlo.
He’d guessed right. It was Catarella.
“Ahh Chief, Chief! Wha’z ya doin’, sleepin’?”
“No, Cat, I was awake. What’s up?”
“Wha’ss up is ’ere’s a buggery tha’ss up.”
Montalbano hesitated. Then it dawned on him.
“A burglary, you mean? So why are you breaking my balls, eh?”
“Chief, beckin’ yer partin’, bu—”
“But nothing! No beckons or partings! Phone Inspector Augello at once!”
Catarella was about to start crying.
“’Ass jess what I wannit a say t’yiz, ya gotta ’scuse me, Chief. I wannit a say ’at Isspecter Augello was let go whereas of diss mornin’.”
Montalbano balked. You couldn’t even sack your housekeeper anymore these days!
“Let go? By whom?”
“Bu’, Chief, i’ ’s youse yisself ’at let ’im go yisterday aftanoon!”
“Cat, he took a leave of absence, he wasn’t let go!”
“Bu’ ya gotta let ’im go f’r’im to be assbent!”
“Listen, was Fazio let go too?”
“’Ass also what I wannit a tell yiz. Dis mornin’ ’ere’s some troubble atta market an’ so the afficer in quession izzatta scene o’ the crime.”
It was hopeless. He would have to look into it himself.
“All right, is the aggrieved party there?”
Catarella paused for a moment before speaking.
“’Ere meanin’ where, Chief?”
“There, at the station, where else?”
“Chief, how’s I asposta know ’oo this guy is?”
“Is he there or isn’t he?”
“The aggrieved party.”
Catarella remained silent.
Catarella didn’t answer.
Montalbano thought the line had gone dead.
And he fell prey to that tremendous, cosmic, irrational fear that came over him whenever a phone call was cut off, as if he were the last person left alive in the universe.
He started shouting like a madman.
“I’m right ’ere, Chief.”
“Why don’t you answer?”
“Chief, promiss ya won’ get upset if I tell yiz I dunno wha’ss a grieve party?”
Calm and patient, Montalbà, calm and patient.
“That’d be the guy who got robbed, Cat.”
“Oh, that guy! Bu’ iss no party f’r ’im, Chief!”
“What’s his name, Cat?”
“’Is name’s Piritone.”
Which in Sicilian means big fart. Was it possible?
“Are you sure that’s his name?”
“Sware to Gad, Chief. Carlo Piritone.”
Montalbano felt like screaming. Two Carlos the same morning was too much to bear.
“Is Signor Piritone at the station?”
“Nah, Chief, ’e jess called. ’E lives a’ Via Cavurro, nummer toitteen.”
“Ring him and tell him I’m on my way.”
Livia hadn’t been woken up by either the phone or his yelling.
In her sleep she had a faint smile on her lips.
Maybe she was still dreaming about Carlo. The bitch.
He felt overwhelmed by uncontrollable rage.
Grabbing a chair, he lifted it up and slammed it down on the floor.
Livia woke up suddenly, frightened.
“What was that?”
“Nothing, I’m sorry. I have to go out. I’ll be back for lunch. Ciao.”
He ran out to avoid starting a fight.
Via Cavour was in the part of Vigàta where the rich people lived.
It had been designed by an architect who deserved a life sentence at the very least. One house looked like a Spanish galleon from the days of pirates, while the one beside it was clearly inspired by the Pantheon in Rome . . .
Montalbano pulled up in front of number 13, which looked like the Pyramid of Menkaure, got out of the car, and went into the building. On the left was a little booth of wood and glass with the porter in it.
“Can you tell me what floor Mr. Piritone lives on?”
The porter, a tall, burly man of about fifty who clearly spent a lot of time at the gym, set down the newspaper he was reading, took off his glasses, stood up, opened the door of the booth, and came out.
“No need to bother,” said Montalbano, “all I need is—”
“All you need is for someone to bust your face,” said the porter, raising a clenched fist.
Montalbano cringed and took a step back.
What was this guy’s problem?
“Wait, listen, there must be some kind of misunderstanding. I’m looking for a Signor Piritone and I am—”
“You better make yourself scarce, and fast—I mean it.”
Montalbano lost patience.
“I’m Inspector Montalbano, goddammit!”
The man looked surprised.
“Would you like to see my ID?”
The porter turned red in the face.
“Christ, it’s true! Now I rec’nize ya! I’m sorry, I thought you were somebody tryin’ t’ fuck wit’ me. I apologize, sir. But look, there’s nobody here named Piritone.”
Naturally, Catarella, as usual, had given him the wrong name.
“Is there anyone with a similar name?”
“There’s a dottor Peritore.”
“That could be him. What floor?”
The porter walked him to the elevator, endlessly excusing himself and bowing.
It occurred to Montalbano that one of these days Catarella, by screwing up every name he gave him, was going to get him shot by someone who was a little on edge.
The slender, blond, well-dressed, bespectacled man of about forty who opened the door for the inspector was not as obnoxious as the inspector had hoped.
“Good morning, I’m Montalbano.”
“Please come in, Inspector, just follow me. I was forewarned of your visit. Naturally the apartment is a mess; my wife and I didn’t want to touch anything before you saw it.”
“You’re right, I should have a look around.”
Bedroom, dining room, guest room, living room, study, kitchen, and two bathrooms, all turned upside down.
Armoires and cabinets thrown open, contents scattered all over the floor, a bookcase completely emptied, books strewn everywhere, desks and consoles with all their drawers open.
Policemen and burglars had one thing in common when searching somebody’s home: even an earthquake left things in slightly better order.
In the kitchen was a young woman of about thirty, also blonde, pretty and polite.
“This is my wife, Caterina.”
“Would you like some coffee?” the woman asked.
“Sure, why not?” said the inspector.
After all, the kitchen was less topsy-turvy than any of the other rooms.
“Maybe it’s best if we talk in here,” said Montalbano, sitting down in a chair.
Peritore did the same.
“The front door didn’t look forced to me,” the inspector continued. “Did they come in through the windows?”
“No, they just used our keys,” said Peritore.
He stuck a hand in his pocket, took out a set of keys, and set them on the table.
“They left them in the entrance hall.”
“I’m sorry. So you weren’t home when the burglary occurred?”
“No. Last night we slept at our seaside house, at Punta Piccola.”
“Ah. And how did you get in if the burglars had your keys?”
“I always keep an extra set with the porter.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand. So where did the burglars get the keys they used to enter your apartment?”
“From our seaside house.”
“While you were asleep?”
“And they didn’t steal anything from that house?”
“They certainly did.”
“So in fact there were two robberies?”
“I beg your pardon, Inspector,” said Signora Caterina, pouring his coffee. “Maybe it’s better if I tell you. My husband is having trouble putting his thoughts in order. So. This morning we woke up around six, both of us with headaches. And we immediately realized that someone had broken in through the front door of our seaside home, knocked us out with some sort of gas, and had the run of the place.”
“You didn’t hear anything?”
“Nothing at all.”
“Strange. Because, you see, they had to break through your front door before they could gas you. You just said so yourself. And so, you should have heard . . .”
“Well, we were . . .”
The woman blushed.
“Let’s say we were a bit tipsy. We were celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary.”
“I don’t think we would even have heard a cannon shot.”
“The burglars apparently found my husband’s wallet in his jacket, along with his ID card and our address—this one, I mean—as well as the keys to this place and to the car. So they quietly got into our car, came here, opened the door, stole what they wanted to steal, and went on their way.”
“What did they take?”
“Well, aside from the car, they didn’t take very much from the seaside house, relatively speaking. Our wedding rings, my husband’s Rolex, my diamond-studded watch, a rather expensive necklace of mine, two thousand euros in cash, both of our computers, cell phones, and our credit cards, which we immediately had canceled.”
Not very much? If you say so.
“And a seascape by Carrà,” the lady concluded, cool as a cucumber.
Montalbano gave a start.
“A seascape by Carrà? And you had it out there, just like that?”
“Well, we were hoping no one would know how much it was worth.”
Whereas those guys certainly did know how much it was worth.
“And what about here?”
“Here they made off with a lot more. For starters, my jewel box with everything inside.”
“About a million and a half euros.”
“My husband’s four other Rolexes. He collects them.”
“And that’s it?”
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