Book two and Episode 4 of the Commisario Montalbano series, this starts out as an investigation into a Mafia influenced robbery and arms-cache but decends into the investigation of a cold case. Salvo stages an arrest at gun point to bring in Tano the Greek – an old man from the old style Mafia. On being transferred to another prison, Tano gets ambushed….there’s a mole in the police. Tano dies but not before he talks to Montalbano, who passes on what was said to the commissioner.
Meanwhile a Vigata supermarket gets raided and the following morning, a truck, still full of stock is found abandoned outside of town. The manager comes in to report the theft, which appears to make no sense – why abandon the truck nearby with the stock still in it?
Based on what Tano has told him, Salvo and the team go looking for a cave up in the mountains, finally finding it and it’s full of weapons and police uniforms.
Salvo’s old headmaster comes to visit, giving him some history of the cave, including the name Lillo Rizzitano. Lillo’s father and grandfather sold stuff on the black market, but it is not known if Lillo survived Allied bombings of 1943 when his house was flattened.
Forensics find some paper in the cave that seems to link the guns to the supermarket robbery. Salvo outlines his theory to the commissioner, that the gun runners used the supermarket to stash the guns following a gun fight, and the two men agree to keep things under wraps.
On a subsequent visit to the cave, Salvo realises it isn’t symmetrical and in pulling the fake wall down, the team finds two bodies guarded by a terracotta dog. Pasquano thinks they have been dead at least 50 years and not killed there.
Mimi complains to Salvo about feeling left out, including not being part of the Tano arrest. There is some almost stereotypical Italian male behaviour, with waving of hands and much sulking/pouting at each other in a kinda macho way. Ultimately Mimi is told to do things Salvo’s way or else. However he ignores the advice and puts a tail on the Supermarket manager.
At their usual meeting place on a deserted runway, Gege warns Salvo that the new guard in the Mafia are offended by Salvo bringing Tano in and it is whilst they are talking that gunmen open fire, killing Gege. Salvo kills one of the gunmen, but gets shot trying to take down the second. Salvo blames Mimi for getting him shot – by insisting that he gets pulled in on the supermarket case, he puts a tail on the manager, which alerts the Mafia, who then target Salvo – not knowing it was Mimi who had ordered the tail. Turns out lots of people know about their meeting spot, including half the police.
With Tano dead and Salvo out of action whilst he recovers, the case is effectively closed. Livia comes to stay whilst Salvo recovers. (I believe that in the book, it is 3 women, not just Livia who comes to watch over him). Once out of hospital, Salvo visits Gege’s mother and they reminisce about the two men growing up together before he gets fed with foodstuffs that are probably not right for a man missing part of his colon.
The headmaster’s wife remembers a school friend (Lisetta Moscatos) who disappeared at same time as Rizzanto, as well as other names – including Mario Tumino. It’s not entirely clear as to why Salvo takes Livia to the scene (he has caught a courting couple making out here previously), but it ends with her initiating them making out – as usual there is effective use of low lighting, making sure the scene is lit well.
At the public event for the mayor opening a tunnel, a plane flies overhead trailing banner saying Lisetta and Mario. The plane drops leaflets announcing their “reawakening”.
Salvo takes a couple of days off work and waits at home for a call. Cue moody staring off sea, and topless shots of him swimming. Finally the phone call comes from some one who was there (Lillo Rizzitano, Lisetta’s cousin). Lisetta had run away after being raped by her father. Lillo reunites her with Mario, then leaves them alone. He comes back to find his Uncle Stefano (Lisetta’s father) looking for his daughter, raging like a wounded lover. It’s not Stefano who kills the pair but a hired killer who breaks into the house the following day and shoots them both whilst they sleep. Lillo buries the bodies in the cave, glad they are together forever.
As the old man takes a nap on his bed, Salvo finds the letter Livia has left him before she left, telling him that despite his selfishness and her fears she still loves him.
In writing this review, it seems there are some differences between the book and the show (I’ve only seen the latter), so it’ll be interesting to see what the differences actually are when I get around to reading the book.
Here is a piece on one of the dishes mentioned in the book