Una lama di luce

October 3, 2012
una lama di luce
by Andrea Camilleri
Sellerio, 271 pp., € 14.00 (€ 10.00 ebook)



Montalbano suffers from extreme loneliness. Long gone are the days in which he welcomed the peace and quiet of his beachfront home and reveled in the solitude of evening meals enjoyed in silence on his terrace. He yearns for someone by his side, somebody with whom to share his daily rituals. Even a lunch meeting with his historic nemesis, police commissioner Bonetti-Alderighi, at a mediocre restaurant while talking about police business provides relief from his self-imposed isolation. Marian, the passionate, hot-blooded owner of a contemporary art gallery, explodes into his life like a light flash, but just as quickly disappears again. The promise of a relationship with this mysterious, generous woman continues over the telephone–mirroring the very real possibility of a definite breakup with historical girlfriend Livia, who likewise remains a distant voice on the phone but clearly realizes that their love story has come to an end. More overwrought than ever, Montalbano is tormented not only by his sentimental conflicts but also by an early-morning dream that threatens to come true. Livia, unconsciously reverberating Montalbano’s state of mind, is haunted by premonitions and falls into a deep and inexplicable depression that deeply alarms Montalbano, but at the same time prevents him from coming to her rescue, as he feels at the root of her ill. The inspector is tormented by too many elements that don’t convince him–by a terrain that is fertile and sterile at the same time and appears both in his dreams and in reality, by the crab on the jetty, who appears to play with him rather than the other way around, by the police commissioner, who suddenly seems to esteem him rather than try and undermine his work, and last but not least by Catarella who starts to speak Latin. The confusion between appearance and reality, as in so many of the books of the series, are at the root of his investigations, which this time are not only a non-related double-investigation into arms trafficking and a robbery aggravated by carnal violence, but breach out into a third case taking place in Milan, spurred by one of Montalbano’s famous intuitions. Longtime readers of the Montalbano series will delight in this newest episode, as despite the strong oneiric overtones, the narrative structure and thematic content of the book are much closer to the earlier books in the series than Camilleri’s latest, more experimental installments. Many loose ends of recent years are wrapped up, and characters that have not made an appearance in a long time, such as the dubious lawyer Guttadauro, a go-between one of the local mafia-families and the government in Rome, make a come-back. In his usual way, the lawyer cryptically tells the inspector through a story, that the mafia doesn’t have anything to do with a murder that has been committed – which is what Montalbano wanted to get at, after theatrically using his friend Nicolò Zito’s TV station to release an interview (as he has done so many times before), in which he announced that he would be going after the local mafia families, pretending to be convinced that they had ordered the murder. Other elements of Camilleri’s seriality also return: deputy police inspector Domenico “Mimì” Augello is back to his old ways, trying to seduce an attractive woman in order to get information, housekeeper Adelina cooks delicacies and leaves a handwritten note for Montalbano, written in barely comprehensible dialect, while her petty delinquent son Pasquale is able to provide precious information to Montalbano, the godfather of his son. But as in many of the most recent novels, it is Montalbano’s internal struggles, not the official police investigations, which are at the core of the book and keep the reader interested. It is clear that the commissario has arrived at a point of no return. And although he tries to delay time and avoid the unavoidable – turning into the cunctator, the procrastinator, of his Latin history book – the dramatic turn of events in the final pages of the book makes him realize that time has gone on, even without his permission, and that his procrastination has rather turned him into Terence’s Heautontimorumenos.