The Paper Moon

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Paper Moon.jpg

At the start of The Paper Moon, we find Inspector Salvo Montalbano using an alarm clock to wake himself to avoid thoughts of mortality that have started to come to him when he wakes up naturally, but he doesn’t get to brood too long before he is called to see Michaela Pardo, whose brother Angelo hasn't been in touch for a couple of days. 

Montalbano accompanies her to the brother's house, which seems empty, but when Michaela leads him upstairs to a terrace Montalbano finds the brother with his flies undone, half his head blown away at point-blank range, and a pair of women's panties in his mouth. According to Michaela the obvious suspect is her brother's lover, Elena Sclafini, married to a much older man. 

A former doctor whose licence had been revoked, Angelo Pardo had been a representative for a pharmaceutical company but seems to have too much money, a gambling habit, a tendency to lavish gifts on his mistress and a strong-box no one can find. His computer also has three files protected by passwords Catarella is going to have to unlock. 

All those factors suggest that Angelo has secrets that may have provided others with a motive to kill him. At the same time some of the most important political figures in the region are turning up dead, supposedly from a variety of causes. In reality the deaths are attributable to indulgence in recreational cocaine. 

The dead politicians are obviously a matter for Mimi Augello, and an obvious means to distract his superiors so that Montalbano, assisted by Catarella and Fazio can carry on with his own eccentric investigations into the other death. 

The interaction between Salvo and Catarella has become a vital cog in the investigative wheel as Salvo comes to appreciate Catarella’s somewhat eccentric  gifts. One suspects that Camilleri (and his translator) are having a great deal of fun with Catarella....

Ahhh, Chief, Chief! We's sinkin' fast! The last word's got a last word! I can't get in! Iss impetrinable!

Gradually, Montalbano pieces together what happened, and realises that he has tended to believe certain people, just as, in his childhood, he believed his father who told him that the moon was made out of paper.

Salvo’s investigation in The Paper Moon develops, once again into a satisfying detective mystery, with the usual elements in the series - political satire, the complex interaction between Italian political culture and Sicilian organized crime - that add up to one of the best in a series that just keeps getting better.

© Ian Hughes 2012