The Scent of the Night

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Scent of the Night.jpg

Suspicions of impending wedding bells continue through The Scent of the Night as the disappearance of Emanuele Gargano, a financial advisor who has apparently absconded along with several billion lire entrusted to him by the citizens of Vigata form the background to developments in Salvo’s personal and professional relationships.

At first it seems Bonetti-Alderighi’s desire to rid himself of his troublesome subordinate are going to be a major theme in the story. For a start, there’s no way the Commissioner’s going to hand the case to Montalbano although it falls within Montalbano’s jurisdiction.

Montalbano isn’t too concerned by the case either, since he doesn’t know a damned thing about money matters. That changes when he’s called to a hostage drama involving a gun-toting geriatric and the missing man’s sole remaining supporter, his obviously love-struck secretary.

Having defused that situation, Montalbano is called to headquarters where the Commissioner has unearthed what he thinks is a clear case of impropriety that could provide an excuse to rid himself of Montalbano. Predictably, the case involves the orphan Francois (The Snack Thief) and a missing passbook with a half-billion lire deposit.

To complicate matters further, Mimi Augello is getting cold feet in the face of imminent wedlock, and Montalbano’s favourite Saracen olive tree is felled by someone building a country villa. 

This was the first Montalbano book I read, and if Salvo’s reaction when he discovers this act of vandalism on his way home from an encounter with burning pirciati at an isolated trattoria (smashed windows, and Arsehole painted on each side of the house in large green letters) wasn’t enough to suggest that we’d found a live one, an incident the following morning with Fazio interviewing the person supervising the construction certainly was.

With the interview concluded, Fazio offers to buy Salvo a new shirt, since the one he’s wearing has splotches of green paint around the cuffs.

That interview, along with a subsequent visit to the missing financier’s other secretary (the drop-dead gorgeous daughter of a fervent communist) leads Montalbano to believe the authorities are barking up the wrong tree when they ascribe the disappearance to the Mafia.

According to Augello and the other officers who’ve looked into the case, Gargano, having conned some leading Mafioso out if a couple of billion has obviously paid the price for such impertinence.

Where Montalbano’s coming from, however, a number of things don’t quite add up and he works away behind the scenes putting the pieces together, although he has to impersonate a Polish admiral to communicate what he’s unearthed to the relevant authorities.

The discovery, however, still seems to confirm the Mafia theory and it takes a bit more digging to fit the remaining pieces into the jigsaw puzzle, and once they’re in place the relationship issues raise their heads again as a result.

© Ian Hughes 2012