Authors: Andrea Camilleri,Joseph Farrell
Translated from the Italian by
First published in a collection the Italian language entitled
by Giulio Einaudi editore s.p.a., Torino in 2011
First published in Great Britain in 2014 by
an imprint of Quercus
55 Baker Street
Floor, South Block
Copyright Â© 2011 Andrea Camilleri
English translation copyright Â© 2014 by Joseph Farrell
Copyright Â© 2011 Giulio Einaudi editore s.p.a., Torino
The moral right of Andrea Camilleri to be identified as the authors of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
The translator asserts their moral right to be identified as the translators of the work.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Ebook ISBN 978 1 78206 786 3
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places and events are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Shape of Water
The Terracotta Dog
The Snack Thief
The Voice of the Violin
Excursion to Tindari
The Scent 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
The Treasure Hunt
As you read this story, you may come across familiar figures like judges, magistrates and prosecutors, but the English and Italian terms do not necessarily correspond.
Whilst a long discussion of the differences between our legal systems would be off-putting and unnecessary, a little background information might be helpful. In Italy,
(public prosecutors) are colleagues: both roles come under the independent institution known as the
, and in fact prosecutors are often referred to as judges in everyday usage.
Under the Napoleonic Code, which formed the basis for the Italian system, judges performed an investigative role as well as presiding over trials and handing down sentences.
Another feature of the Italian system touched upon in the stories is the co-existence of two separate national police
are a military police force, whereas the
polizia di stato
(state police) are now a civilian force. Both have a long history, and have developed sometimes overlapping responsibilities, which can lead to rivalry and confusion.
JUDGE SURRA ARRIVED IN MONTELUSA FROM TURIN A FORTNIGHT
after the first prefect of the United Italy, a Florentine called Falconcini, had taken up his post on the island.
Even before the judge reached the town, a few things about him became known. How? By what means? Perhaps one of the staff who came with Falconcini had known him previously and spread the word.
For instance, it became known that even though his Christian and family names were Sardinian, he himself was not â his great-grandfather on his father's side, who was from Iglesias, and who had moved to Turin when the Piedmontese bartered Sicily for Sardinia, had children with a Turinese woman and never again ventured away from the city.
It was also established that Judge Surra was around fifty, that he was a little less than average height, that he invariably dressed soberly, that he was married with one son who
was a lawyer but that he would be coming to Montelusa on his own.
At least to begin with.
Further, that he was a man of few words and kept himself to himself.
On the other hand, little was known about him as a judge, since he had always been employed inside the ministry and had not seen service in a courtroom.
The challenge facing him on his arrival was anything but straightforward. It consisted in totally reconstructing a court of law which quite simply no longer existed. In plain terms, the task was to replace the previous president of the court, Fallarino, whom Garibaldi's followers wished to arrest on account of his intractably pro-Bourbon views â he had refused to recognise the Savoy monarchy and had in consequence resigned; then to bring back those judges who had worked with the Bourbons and who would be happy to continue in post in the new state, but only after their outlook had been changed; and finally to introduce the Piedmontese code of law, which was still unknown to judges and lawyers alike.
Obviously, even in the nobles' club, whose membership consisted not only of noblemen but also of wealthy landowners and tradesmen, there was much discussion about the judge who was due to arrive. “Surra,” Don Agatino Smecca said. “In our towns and villages that's a word meaning âbelly' which, as you all know, is the most delicate and tasty part of
the tuna fish. So, going by his surname, this judge is very promising.”
“You are talking like that because you're a man of the sea,” Don Clemente Sommartino said. “But I'm a man of the fields, a peasant, and I'm here to tell you that âsurra' is the name of a bitter, smelly herb which, when chickens eat it, gives their eggs a nasty taste that makes you spit them out. So his surname, as far as I'm concerned, promises nothing good at all.”
“That's enough of this nonsense. A name tells you nothing about the person who bears it,” Bonocore, the sulphur dealer, cut in. “You remember that judge who was called Benevolo but who was anything but? He never acquitted anyone, and was worse than an executioner.”
“That's true enough,” Don Clemente thought to himself. “And while we're at it, you're called Bonocore, and far from having a good heart as your name implies, you bankrupted two of your colleagues.”
But he did not say a word.
When the ship from Palermo docked at VigÃ ta, a clerk from the prefect's office introduced himself to the judge.
“His Excellency Falconcini has procured comfortable lodgings for you in Montelusa. I'd be delighted to take you there in my carriage. You get in; I'll load up your luggage.”
The apartment in the upper city, in the vicinity of the cathedral, turned out to be comfortable, spacious and elegantly
appointed with eighteenth-century furniture. It was part of the palace belonging to the Marchese Bontadini, but it was completely self-contained, with its own door along from the main entrance.
Before leaving him, the clerk handed him a card from the prefect. It informed him that in the stables on the far side of the street, opposite the entrance to the house, a carriage, a mule and coachman by the name of Attanasio, a trustworthy person, had been put at his disposal.
The judge changed his clothes and crossed to the stables.
“At your service. I am Attanasio. Do you require the carriage?” Asking the questions was a curly-haired man of some forty years of age with intelligent eyes, dressed in livery.
“No, I'd rather go on foot. But would you mind doing me two favours?”
“You have only to ask, your Excellency.”
“I require the services of a woman to clean the apartment and keep it tidy. And to prepare my meals, because I don't like eating out.”
“Excellency, I will tell my wife, Pippina.”
“If she could come tomorrow morning at seven-thirty â¦”
“And then I would like to purchase a pointer dog, but you would need to look after it for me somewhere else.”
“I will have three or four dogs brought along no later than tomorrow, and you can make your choice. And I will be happy to look after it.”
The judge thanked him and was about to go when Attanasio gave himself a slap on the forehead.
“Ah, Excellency, I forgot. Earlier today, a servant from the Bontadini Palace gave me this, and said to tell you he found it under the main door.”
He pulled out a letter and handed it to him.
Surra looked at him in amazement. How could this be? They knew his address even before he had arrived.
The letter had been delivered by hand. The address was printed and read: To His Excellency Efisio Surra, Palazzo Bontadini, The City.
The judge was certain the letter would be anonymous. Indeed it was.
Excellency, what happened to the papers relating to the hearings in the cases of Milioto, Savastano, Curreli and Costantino? Why not discuss it with Don Emanuele Lonero, known as Don NenÃ©?
A friend of Justice
He slipped it into his pocket and went off to meet the prefect.
Who did not have good news for him.
Of all the court's staff, only the head clerk, three assistant clerks, two ushers, four court officers, two presiding judges and four judges were prepared to cooperate with the new government.
In principle, the court was capable of being reactivated, but in practice it was not at all easy to see how this would work. The prefect assigned to the court a corps of one maresciallo and four carabinieri. It was the best he could do. Judge Surra asked for the address of the previous president of the court, Fallarino, and then told maresciallo Solano, who had in the meantime been introduced to him, to instruct those who were willing to work with him to present themselves at the court the following morning at nine o'clock.
Since the invitation from the prefect was for dinner, he was left with some time on his hands. He wrote to the ex-president of the court, Saverio Fallarino, requesting the pleasure of a meeting, and told one of the carabinieri to deliver it.
The reply was brought by the same man: President Fallarino would meet him at his house at five o'clock the following day.
When the judge left the prefecture, it was after nine o'clock.
It was such a lovely night that he felt inclined to go for a stroll along the
. He was surprised to find so many people about, weaving in and out in a continual ballet of deft moves, bows, smiles and compliments.
The thing which most powerfully attracted his attention was the window of a big caffÃ¨ with its display of multi-coloured cakes. The judge had one vice, a badly kept secret: an
overwhelming fondness for sweet things. It had been the cause of many quarrels with his wife, who feared for his health. He saw before him a pile of strange sweets
brownish tubes of crisp pastry of about twenty centimetres in length, filled with white cream and flecked on the sides with tiny pieces of candied fruit.
He could not resist and went in. The tables were all taken. When they set eyes on him, the company fell silent for a moment, but then the conversation struck up again.