A Beam of Light (Inspector Montalbano Mystery)

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9780143126430: A Beam of Light (Inspector Montalbano Mystery)

Celebrating Andrea Camilleri’s 90th birthday, this is the nineteenth novel in his irresistible New York Times–bestselling Inspector Montalbano mystery series. Camilleri's latest, A Nest of Vipers, is now available.

“In Sicily, where people do things as they please, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a bona fide folk hero.”—The New York Times Book Review

 
When Inspector Montalbano falls under the charms of beautiful gallery owner Marian, his longtime relationship with Livia comes under threat. Meanwhile, he is also troubled by a strange dream as three crimes demand his attention: the assault and robbery of a wealthy merchant's young wife, shady art deals, and a search for arms traffickers that leads him deep into the countryside, where the investigation takes a tragic turn.

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About the Author:

Andrea Camilleri is the bestselling author of the popular Inspector Montalbano Mystery series, as well as a number of historical novels that take place in Sicily. He lives in Italy.

Stephen Sartarelli is an award-winning translator and poet who lives in France.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

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 Cosa 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 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.”

USA Today

“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.”

The Nation

“Camilleri can do a character’s whole backstory in half a paragraph.” —The New Yorker

“Subtle, sardonic, and molto simpatico: Montalbano is the Latin re-creation of Philip Marlowe, working in a place that manages to be both more and less civilized than Chandler’s Los Angeles.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“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.”

Houston Chronicle

“Sublime and darkly humorous . . . Camilleri balances his hero’s personal and professional challenges perfectly and leaves the reader eager for more.”

Publishers Weekly (starred 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

Also by Andrea Camilleri

Hunting Season

The Brewer of Preston

THE INSPECTOR MONTALBANO SERIES

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

August Heat

The Wings of the Sphinx

The Track of Sand

The Potter’s Field

The Age of Doubt

The Dance of the Seagull

Treasure Hunt

Angelica’s Smile

Game of Mirrors

A Beam of Light

A PENGUIN MYSTERY

© Elvira Giorgianni

A BEAM OF LIGHT

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 long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Stephen Sartarelli is an award-winning translator and the author of three books of poetry.

PENGUIN BOOKS

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

penguin.com

Copyright © 2012 by Sellerio Editore

Translation copyright © 2015 by Stephen Sartarelli

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Originally published in Italian as Una lama di luce by Sellerio Editore, Palermo.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA

Camilleri, Andrea.

[Lama di luce English]

A beam of light / Andrea Camilleri; translated by Stephen Sartarelli.

pages cm

ISBN 978-0-698-15438-4

1. Montalbano, Salvo (Fictitious character)—Fiction. I. Sartarelli, Stephen, 1954– translator. II. Title.

PQ4863.A3894L3613 2015

853’.914—dc23

2015011921

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.

Cover design by Paul Buckley

Cover illustration by Andy Bridge

1

Since the first light of dawn, the morning had shown itself to be erratic and whimsical. And so, by contagion, Montalbano’s behavior would also prove at the very least unstable that morning. When this happened, it was best to see as few people as possible.

The more the years passed, the more sensitive he became to variations in the weather, just as greater or lesser humidity will affect the pain in an old man’s bones. And he was less and less able to control himself, to hide his excesses of cheer and gloom.

In the time he’d taken to go from his house in Marinella to the Casuzza district—about ten miles consisting of dirt paths only good for tanks and of little country roads slightly less wide than a car—the sky had turned from light pink to gray, and then from gray to a faded blue before stopping momentarily at a hazy off-white that blurred the outlines of things and muddled one’s vision.

He’d received a phone call at eight o’clock that morning, just as he was finishing his shower. He’d slept late because he knew he didn’t have to go to the office that day.

His mood darkened. He hadn’t been expecting any phone calls. Who could it be busting his chops first thing in the morning?

Theoretically, there shouldn’t have been anyone at the station other than the telephone operator, since it was supposed to be a special day in Vigàta.

Special in the sense that the illustrious Minister of the Interior, returning from a visit to the island of Lampedusa—where the reception centers for immigrants (yes, they had the gall to call them that!) were no longer in a position to house so much as another one-month-old baby, being packed tighter than a can of sardines—had expressed his intention to inspect the makeshift tent-camps that had been set up in Vigàta, even though these were likewise stuffed to the gills, with the added aggravation that the poor wretches were forced to sleep on the ground and relieve themselves outside.

For this reason Hizzoner the C’mishner Bonetti-Alderighi had mobilized the entire police forces of Montelusa as well as Vigàta to line the streets the high dignitary was to travel, so that his tender ears would not hear the boos, Bronx cheers, and cusswords (called “protests” in proper Italian) of the population, but only the applause of four or five assholes paid for that express purpose.

Without a second thought, Montalbano had dumped the whole business onto the shoulders of Mimì Augello, his second-in-command, and had taken advantage of the situation to enjoy a day off. The mere sight of the Minister of the Interior on television was enough to set the inspector’s blood boiling, so he could only imagine what it would be like seeing him personally in person.

The whole thing in the unstated hope that, out of respect for a representative of the government, nobody in Vigàta or environs would kill anybody or commit any other crimes. The criminals would certainly be sensitive enough not to make trouble on a day of such joy.

So who could it be trying to reach him on the phone?

He decided not to answer. But the telephone, after falling briefly silent, started ringing again.

And what if it was Livia? Maybe needing to tell him something important? There was no getting around it: He had to pick up the receiver.

“Hallo, Chief? Catarella sum.”

Montalbano froze. Catarella, speaking Latin? What was happening to the universe? Was the end of the world at hand? Surely he must not have heard right.

“Wha’d you say?”

“I sai’, ‘Catarella ’ere,’ Chief.”

He breathed a sigh of relief. He’d heard wrong. The universe fell back into place.

“What is it, Cat?”

“Chief, I gatta tell yiz afore anyting ilse ’at iss a long an’ compiclated story.”

Montalbano’s foot stretched out and pulled a chair close to him, and he sat down in it.

“I’m all ears, Cat.”

“Aright. So, seein’ ’at ’iss mornin’ yoys truly betooked ’isself onna orders o’ ’Specter Augello insomuch as they’s aspectin’ the ’rrival o’ the heliocopter carryin’ Hizzoner the Minister o’—”

“Did it arrive?”

“I dunno, Chief. I’m not appraised o’ the situation.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not appraised cuz I’m not at the scene.”

“So where are you?”

“At anutter scene called Casuzza districk, Chief, which is allocated near the ol’ railroad crossin’ ’at comes after—”

“I know where Casuzza is, Cat. But are you going to tell me what you’re doing there or aren’t you?”

“Beckin’ yer partin’, Chief, bu’ if ya keep buttin’ inna wha’ I’s sayin’ . . .”

“Sorry, go on.”

“So anyways, at a soitan point in time the foresaid Isspecter Augello gotta phone call true our swishboard insowhere I’s replaced by a replacement, Afficer Filippazzo, foist name Michele, insomuch azza foresaid twissèd ’is leg—”

“Wait a second, who’s the aforesaid? Inspector Augello or Filippazzo?”

He shuddered at the thought of Mimì hurting himself, which would mean he would have to go and welcome the minister himself.

“Filippazzo, Chief, ’oo fer the foresaid reason couldna be prescient fer activist soivice, an’ so ’e passed it onna Fazio, ’oo, when ’e ’oid da foresaid phone call, tol’ me to fughettabout the aspectation o’ the heliocopter ann’at I’s asposta go immidiotly at once to Casuzza districk. Which . . .”

Montalbano realized it was going to take half the morning for him to grasp any of what Catarella was saying.

“Listen, Cat, tell you what. I’m gonna fill myself in on this stuff and then call you back in five minutes, okay?”

“But should I keep my sill-phone on or off?”

“Turn it off.”

He called Fazio. Who answered right away.

“Has the minister arrived?”

“Not yet.”

“Catarella rang me but after talking for fifteen minutes I still hadn’t managed to understand a thing.”

“I can explain what it’s about, Chief. Some peasant called our switchboard to let us know he found a coffin in his field.”

“Full or empty?”

“I couldn’t quite figure that out. It was a bad connection.”

“Why’d you send Catarella?”

“It didn’t seem like such a big deal.”

He thanked Fazio and called Catarella back.

“Is the coffin full or empty?”

“Chief, the caffin in quession’s got iss lid coverin’ it an’ theretofore the contense o’ the foresaid caffin in’t possible to know whass inside.”

“So you didn’t open it yourself.”

“Nossir, Chief, issomuch as there warn’t no orders consoinin’ the raisin’ o’ the foresaid lid. But if you order me to open it, I’ll open it. Bu’ iss useless, if y’ask me.”

“Why?”

“Cuz the caffin in’t empty.”

“How do you know?”

“I know cuz the peasant farmer jinnelman ’oo’d be the owner o’ the land whereats the foresaid caffin happens a be allocated, an ’ooz name is Annibale Lococo, son o’ Giuseppe, an’ ’oo’s right ’ere aside me, he lifted the lid jess anuff t’ see ’at the caffin was accappied.”

“By whom?”

“By a dead poisson’s body, Chief.”

So it was a big deal after all, contrary to what Fazio had thought.

“All right, wait for me there.”

And so, cursing the saints, he’d had to get in the car and drive off.

The coffin was the kind for third-class corpses, the poorest of the poor, of rough-hewn wood without so much as a coat of varnish.

A corner of white linen stuck out from under the lid, which had been laid down crooked.

Montalbano bent down to get a better look. Gripping it with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, he pulled it out a little more and was able to see the initials BA embroidered on it and intertwined.

Annibale Lococo was sitting on the edge of the coffin, down near the feet, a rifle on his shoulder, and smoking half a Tuscan cigar. He was fiftyish and sinewy, with sunbaked skin.

Catarella was about one step away but standing at attention, unable to utter a word, overwhelmed by emotion at conducting an investigation alongside the inspector.

All around them, a desolate landscape, more rock than earth, a few rare trees suffering from millennia of water deprivation, shrubs of sorghum, huge clumps of wild weeds. About half a mile away, a solitary little house, perhaps the one that lent the place its name.

Near the coffin, in the dust that had once been earth, one could clearly see the tracks of a small truck’s tires and the shoeprints of two men.

“Is this land yours?” Montalbano asked Lococo.

“Land? What land?” said Lococo, screwing up his face at him.

“This land, where we’re standing right now.”

“Ah, you call this land, sir?”

“What do you grow on it?”

Before answering, the peasant glared at him again, took off his beret, scratched his head, took his cigar out of his mouth, spit on the ground in disdain, then put his Tuscan half-cigar between his lips.

“Nothing. What the hell do you think’ll grow on it? Nothing ever takes here. This land’s cursed. But I come an’ hunt on it. It’s full o’ hares.”

“Was it you who discovered the coffin?”

“Yessir.”

“When?”

“This mornin’, roun’ six-thirty. An’ I called you immediately on my cell phone.”

“Did you come through here yesterday evening?”

“No, sir, I ain’t been true here for tree days.”

“So you don’t know when they left the coffin here.”

“’A’ss right.”

“Did you look inside?”

“Of course. Why, didn’t you? I’s curious. I noticed that the lid wasn’t screwed on an’ s...

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Descrizione libro Penguin Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In time for Andrea Camilleri s 90th birthday, the nineteenth installment in his irresistible New York Times bestselling Inspector Montalbano Mystery series In Sicily, where people do things as they please, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a bona fide folk hero. The New York Times Book Review When Inspector Montalbano falls under the charms of beautiful gallery owner Marian, his longtime relationship with Livia comes under threat. Meanwhile, he is also troubled by a strange dream as three crimes demand his attention: the assault and robbery of a wealthy merchant s young wife, shady art deals, and a search for arms traffickers that leads him deep into the countryside, where the investigation takes a tragic turn. Codice libro della libreria ABZ9780143126430

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Descrizione libro Penguin Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. In time for Andrea Camilleri s 90th birthday, the nineteenth installment in his irresistible New York Times bestselling Inspector Montalbano Mystery series In Sicily, where people do things as they please, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a bona fide folk hero. The New York Times Book Review When Inspector Montalbano falls under the charms of beautiful gallery owner Marian, his longtime relationship with Livia comes under threat. Meanwhile, he is also troubled by a strange dream as three crimes demand his attention: the assault and robbery of a wealthy merchant s young wife, shady art deals, and a search for arms traffickers that leads him deep into the countryside, where the investigation takes a tragic turn. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780143126430

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Descrizione libro Penguin Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In time for Andrea Camilleri s 90th birthday, the nineteenth installment in his irresistible New York Times bestselling Inspector Montalbano Mystery series In Sicily, where people do things as they please, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a bona fide folk hero. The New York Times Book Review When Inspector Montalbano falls under the charms of beautiful gallery owner Marian, his longtime relationship with Livia comes under threat. Meanwhile, he is also troubled by a strange dream as three crimes demand his attention: the assault and robbery of a wealthy merchant s young wife, shady art deals, and a search for arms traffickers that leads him deep into the countryside, where the investigation takes a tragic turn. Codice libro della libreria ABZ9780143126430

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