Those things were never going to be easy, but there are a couple of issues that make them more difficult than they should be. For a start, with Fazio out of the investigative picture, Mimi Augello is distracted by an ongoing argument with his wife, Beba, the hospital is a fair drive from Vigata and he needs to make the journey there and back twice a day to fit in with visiting hours supervised by the nurse Salvo labels the Sing-Sing prison guard and when he gets there he’s easily confused by the hospital’s labyrinthine corridors and passageways.

Fortunately, there’s Angela, a helpful and very attractive nurse on hand to guide him to the requisite destination, though her apparent availability and willingness to participate in a bit of horizontal mambo comes across as definitely dodgy and, of course, along the way there are the regulation and requisite interactions with Catarella on the station swishboard, Commissioner Bonetti-Alderighi and his doorman, Deputy Commissioner Lattes (Caffè-Lattes behind his back) who continues to inquire politely regarding the health of Montalbano’s non-existent wife and children.

Fazio’s injury is the sort of thing the c'mishner is going to want to be kept up to speed with, and this time around the excuse that keeps Montalbano from attending requested interviews involves an impending visit by a Swiss specialist named Gruntz, who’ll be performing a rectal procedure called the double Scrockson. Given the excuse, Montalbano can’t be seen eating at Enzo’s trattoria when the Commissioner is eating there, so he’s forced to hole up in a back room, which has absolutely no effect on the Montalbano appetite.

The answer to the big, Fazio-related question turns out to involve a Mafioso with a big secret, the Russians, Arab terrorists and a prominent figure in the national government, a fact that would have the big boys from out of town stepping in if Montalbano can’t keep his cards close to his chest, which he (predictably) manages to do, using the usual mixture of intuition, inspiration and attention to seemingly insignificant detail.

And having done so, settles down to enjoy a substantial plate of caponata

© Ian Hughes 2012