Authors: Andrea Camilleri
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 Casa 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 wedges 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.”
“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.”
“Camilleri can do a character’s whole backstory in half a paragraph.”
The New Yorker
“Subtle, sardonic, and
: Montalbano is the Latin re-creation of Philip Marlowe, working in a place that manages to be both more and less civilized than C
handler’s Los Angeles.”
“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.”
“Sublime and darkly humorous . . . Camilleri balances his hero’s personal and professional challenges perfectly and leaves the reader eager for more.”
“The Montalbano mysteries offer
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
The Shape of Water
The Terra-Cotta Dog
The Snack Thief
Voice of the Violin
Excursion to Tindari
The Smell of the Night
Rounding the Mark
The Patience of the Spider
The Paper Moon
The Wings of the Sphinx
The Track of Sand
The Potter’s Field
The Age of Doubt
The Dance of the Seagull
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A PENGUIN BOOK
Photo by Elvira Giorgianni
Andrea 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 longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Stephen Sartarelli is an award-winning translator and the author of three books of poetry.
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First published in Penguin Books 2014
Copyright © 1992 by Sellerio Editore
Translation copyright © 2014 by Stephen Sartarelli
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Originally published in Italian as
La stagione della caccia
by Sellerio Editore, Palermo
ISBN: 978-0-14-312653-9 (pbk)
ISBN: 978-0-698-15742-2 (eBook)
This 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.
he steam-driven packet boat that delivered the mail from Palermo, the
—which Sicilians stubbornly continued to call the
out of a combination of habit, laziness, and homage to the Bourbon king who had instituted the service—cast anchor, dead on time, at two o’clock in the afternoon of January 1, 1880, in the port of Vigàta.
Down a wobbly gangway of planks promptly laid from dock to ship’s side the passengers from the hold came hurtling landward in a mayhem of cries, greetings, wails, bushels of fruit, sacks of potatoes, breadbaskets, bundles of chickens, and salt rocks, while down a more dignified but even wobblier, rigid Jacob’s ladder came four cabin passengers duly honored by Captain Cumella, who, watch in hand, was making it known that, come hell or high water, he and his boat were always punctual. Backtracking from the dock up to the bridge, these passengers were:
the postmaster of the Vigàta Post Office, Signor Carlo Colajanni, returning from Trapani, where he had gone with unflagging paternal solicitude to assist his only daughter Sarafina in giving birth for the eighth time;
Signora Clelia Tumminello, a woman of full-bodied beauty, afflicted, however, by an unknown ailment that compelled her to go once every two months to Castellammare for the required treatment—though the true benefit of these visits, according to gossips, came from the root extract her strapping young cousin, who hailed from those parts, was always ready to administer to her;
the commander of the garrison of Vigàta, Lieutenant Amedeo Baldovino, a Piedmontese from Cuneo, whose military hands buoyed Signora Clelia’s haunches during her perilous descent down the Jacob’s ladder.
Above these three, the remaining steps of the ladder remained vacant, because the fourth passenger, a young stranger not quite thirty years old in a checked suit and English cap, unremarkable in appearance, with a thin moustache and lean physique, stood with one foot on the bridge and the other in midair, as if purposely trying, with that kick-like motion, to put a proper distance between himself and his fellow travelers.
He had, moreover, maintained the same sort of distance during the entire journey. Of few but courteous words when required, he became immediately tight-lipped the moment the others, in their curiosity, had displayed any desire to know his name, surname, or profession.
Before descending the little rope ladder, the stranger waited for the trio before him to touch solid ground and dutifully exchange bows, handshakes, and tips of the hat. Then he made his move. But without haste, calm and poised, head turning first right, then left, to look at Vigàta’s squat houses painted yellow, white, green, and blue. Suddenly there was not a soul left on the quay. The passengers and those waiting for them had all disappeared, swept away by an icy north wind. Reaching the bottom of the ladder, the stranger, who was holding only a small accordion suitcase, turned and looked at Captain Cumella.
“About my trunk—” he began.
Captain Cumella interrupted him with a sweeping wave of the hand.
“Not to worry. I’ll take care of it.”
The stranger needed only to cross two utterly lifeless streets to find himself in Vigàta’s central piazza. Facing the square were the Chiesa Madre, the Circolo dei Nobili, the three-story palazzo of Barone Uccello, the two-story house of the Marchese Peluso, five trading shops for sulphur, almonds, and fava beans, the Sicilian Bank of Credit and Discount, and the Town Hall. Between the church and the Circolo began the Corso, a narrow street like all the rest, though a bit less tortuous. Nor was there any sign of life in the piazza, except for a spotted dog blithely pissing at the foot of an odd statue without a pedestal next to the half-open door of the Nobles’ Club. Between pale brown and gray in color, and absurdly placed in a genuine wicker armchair, the monument represented a decrepit old man in a frock coat holding a walking stick in his crossed arms.
As the stranger resumed walking towards the Corso, the dog moved likewise, circling closely around the statue; then it stopped and raised its hind leg again, aiming straight at the frock coat, which touched the ground. Halfway across the square, the stranger froze in bewilderment. He had the troubling feeling that a pair of eyes were staring hard at him, though he couldn’t tell where that menacing gaze was coming from. He took a few more steps, unconvinced that continuing in the open was the right thing to do; at that same moment, with the sort of slowness he had sometimes experienced in nightmares, the statue raised its right arm and waved its fingers weakly at him, clearly inviting him to come closer. Feeling his shirt suddenly stick to the sweat streaming down his back, the stranger stopped in front of the old man and bent down to see a face that looked like baked clay sculpted by long exposure to sunlight and frost, in whose deep wrinkles fly shit and pigeon droppings had formed a rough sort of paste; and under lashes encrusted with sand and sulphur dust, he discovered two knife-sharp, very living pupils. The old man contemplated the stranger for a few seconds in silence, began to shake all over, and opened his mouth as if to cry out in astonishment.
” he managed to rasp. Then he lowered his eyelids, repeating again to himself, this time almost in a tone of resignation: “
Polite and patient, with body bent forward, the stranger granted the old man all the time he needed to regain his breath and reopen his eyes.
“You are . . .” the old man began, but just as he was about to utter the stranger’s name and surname, his memory suddenly slipped away, let go the rope dredged up with such effort from that black well of leaden recollections, got lost in a labyrinth of births and deaths, forgot events like wars and earthquakes, and seized fast upon something that had happened to the old man when he was barely four years old and his uncle’s hunting dog had bitten him after he had poked it with a stick.
“You’re a hunting dog,” the old man managed to conclude, shutting his eyelids tight, to let the other understand that he had no more intention to waste his breath.
The stranger doffed his cap, bowed deeply to the man, who had turned back into a statue, and continued on his way.
Though not a day went by when he didn’t steal some trifle or other, Sasà Mangione, a stevedore and porter in his free time, could not really be called a thief. And such was the same conclusion reached by police inspector Portera, after he had arrested Sasà some fifteen times.
“A thief because he pinches things from others?” the inspector had asked himself. If he had no money and made a little by selling what he stole, fine. But Sasà didn’t need any money, since his wife was the maid of Commendatore Aguglia, a crazy ex-Garibaldian who said that all men are created almost equal and therefore paid his maid four times the going rate. What’s more, Sasà did not resell what he took from others. Hadn’t the inspector found Don Saverio Piscopo’s magnifying glass, schoolmistress Pancucci’s map of the world, and Dr. Smecca’s microscope safe and sound in Sasà’s home? And so? There could only be one explanation: Sasà stole purely for the pleasure of depriving people of things. Sasà was not a thief, but a thieving magpie. And can one keep a bird in jail?
One day Inspector Portera had summoned Sasà to the police station and told him the following:
“From now on, whenever somebody hires you to haul something from one place to another, I want you to shout out, at the top of your lungs, every ten steps you take, where you picked that thing up, where you are taking it, and who it belongs to. If I catch you with so much as a blade of grass in your hand and you haven’t cried out what I told you, I will send you to San Vito prison, where you’ll end up feeding the worms.”
This was why, at four o’clock in the afternoon on that New Year’s day, Sasà Mangione, staggering under the weight of an enormous trunk covered with shiny copper studs that made him sick to his stomach, knowing he couldn’t unscrew any and take them home, trudged through the streets and piazzas of Vigàta, shouting:
“I got this trunk here from the
when it pulled into port today . . . An’ I’m takin’ it to Signora Concettina Adamo’s boardinghouse . . . And it belongs to the stranger who arrived on the mail boat.”
Hearing these words, Signor Fede, a surveyor, who had been squirming in his effort to digest the roast half suckling goat he had eaten for lunch, leapt out of bed as though bitten by an animal, got dressed, and set off after the sound of Sasà’s voice, which was now far away. The surveyor was known in town as a “friend to strangers,” for his extraordinary ability to approach outsiders who had just arrived and, with only a few questions, extract their whole life’s story, which he would then recount to a captive audience at the Circolo. He would have made a superb policeman, but had neither the head nor the heart of a cop. When he arrived at the boardinghouse out of breath, Sasà had just left, counting the money he’d been given.
“The stranger’s not here; he’s gone out for a walk,” said Signora Adamo before Signor Fede could open his mouth. “I had the trunk taken up to his room. Stranger says it’s not supposed to be opened for now. And he left me the money for Sasà. Satisfied, Signor Fede?”
“But did he let you know in advance he was coming?”
“Of course, last month he sent word with a sailor from the
, who also brought four suitcases with him the last time the mail boat arrived.”
“So he’s going to be here in Vigàta for a while?”
“He paid me in advance for fifteen days’ room and board.”
“Do you know what his name is?”
“Of course. I’ve kept two letters that came for him. His name is Santo Alfonso de’ Liguori.”
After combing the streets and alleyways around the port, Signor Fede caught up with the man as he was eyeing a palazzo with columns in front. Although he had never seen him before, he knew him at once to be the stranger and approached him with the satisfaction of a pointer seeing his sense of smell confirmed.
“Hello. The name’s Fede, surveyor by trade. Could I be of assistance to you in anything?”
“In nothing at all, thank you,” replied the stranger, touching his cap with two fingers.