For some unknown reason I had missed reading number two in the Montalbano series, The Terracotta Dog. But it was quite nice to go back and see how the characters and their relationships had developed over the series.
In some ways the book surprised me in that Camilleri was able to create in one novel a historical labyrinthine mystery, and a polemic against the modern menace of the Mafia.
When mafioso Tano the Greek , a man of honour, decides to give himself up to Montalbano he begins a series of events that lead to the solving of a 50 year old murder mystery. A supermarket heist goes wrong and the loot is inexplicably abandoned. But when someone arranges Tano's prison transfer and he is shot along with his escorts it is abundantly clear what is happening. Tano's dying words lead Montalbano to a secret cave which is both a weapons dump, and the resting place of two young lovers. In death they have been embracing each other for over 50 years watched over by a terracotta dog.
The mob begin to remove a string of witnesses involved in the supermarket heist, and Montalbano himself is shot.
"They were pruning a dead branch"
During his convalescence Montalbano devotes himself to investigating the story of the two young lovers, while Mimi Augello and the team chase shadows. Montalbano is his usual abrasive self not paying enough attention to his lover, Livia, and ignoring Mimi Augello.
"There are two foreign bodies here: Catarella and me, Catarella because he is too stupid and me....
"Because you are too intelligent"
The solution to the mystery is found with the aid of a thesis, and a lot of excellent meals.
"He ate the special appetizer of shellfish, then had them bring him two sea perches so fresh they seemed to be still swimming in the sea."
In yet another thoughtful and erudite novel Camilleri entertains, and also educates us about the historical reality of that turbulent period of 1943 Sicily , and the present day reality of the Mafia.
Republic of Salo: the puppet government instituted in 1943, under the Nazi occupation in the Northern Italian town of the same name, after German parachutists boldly snatched Mussolini away from anti-Fascist partisans who had captured him. The "government" was made up of die-hard Fascists under the recently deposed and now resurrected Duce.