Authors: Andrea Camilleri
Praise for Andrea Camilleri and the Montalbano Series
“There’s a deliciously playful quality to the mysteries Andrea Camilleri writes about a lusty Sicilian police detective named Salvo Montalbano.”
The New York Times Book 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
“This series is distinguished by Camilleri’s remarkable feel for tragicomedy, expertly mixing light and dark in the course of producing novels that are both comforting and disturbing.”—
“The novels of Andrea Camilleri breathe out the sense of place, the sense of humor, and the sense of despair that fills the air of Sicily.”—Donna Leon
“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 . . . as gracefully as he dodges advances from attractive women.”
Los Angeles Times
“In Sicily, where people do things as they please, Inspector Montalbano is a bona fide folk hero.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Sublime and darkly humorous . . . Camilleri balances his hero’s personal and professional challenges perfectly and leaves the reader eager for more.”
“Camilleri is as crafty and charming a writer as his protagonist is an investigator.”—
The Washington Post
“Montalbano is a delightful creation, an honest man on Sicily’s mean streets.”—
“Camilleri can do a character’s whole backstory in half a paragraph.”—
The New Yorker
“The humor and humanity of Montalbano make him an equally winning lead character.”—
Also by Andrea Camilleri
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
The Wings of the Sphinx
The Track of Sand
The Potter’s Field
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A PENGUIN MYSTERY
THE AGE OF DOUBT
Andrea Camilleri is the author of many books, including his Montalbano series, which has been adapted for Italian television and translated into nine languages. He lives in Rome.
Stephen Sartarelli is an award-winning translator and the author of three books of poetry.
THE AGE OF DOUBT
Translated by Stephen Sartarelli
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in Penguin Books 2012
Copyright © Sellerio Editore, 2008
Translation copyright © Stephen Sartarelli, 2012
All rights reserved
Originally published in Italian as
L’età del dubbio
by Sellerio Editore, Palermo.
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, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA
[L’età del dubbio. English]
The age of doubt / Andrea Camilleri ; translated by Stephen Sartarelli.
“A Penguin mystery.”
1. Montalbano, Salvo (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Police—Italy—Fiction. 3. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. 4. Sicily (Italy)—Fiction. I. Sartarelli, Stephen, 1954– II. Title.
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He had just fallen asleep after a night worse than almost any other in his life, when a thunderclap as loud as a cannon blast fired two inches from his ear startled him awake. He sat up with a jolt, cursing the saints. Sleep seemed a distant memory, never to return. It was useless to remain in bed.
He got up, went over to the window, and looked outside. It was a textbook storm: sky painted uniformly black, bone-chilling lightning bolts, billows ten feet high charging forward, shaking their great white manes. The surging sea had eaten up the beach, washing all the way up under the veranda. He glanced at his watch: not quite 6
He went into the kitchen, prepared a pot of coffee, and sat down, waiting for it to bubble up. Little by little, the dream he had just had began to resurface in his memory. What a tremendous pain in the ass. This had been happening to him for several years now. Why did he always have to remember every shitty little thing he happened to dream? As far as he knew, not everyone, upon waking up, dragged their dreams behind them. They simply opened their eyes, and everything that had happened to them during their sleep, good and bad, disappeared. But not him. And the worst of it was that these were problematic dreams. They raised a great many questions for most of which he had no answer. And in the end he would always get upset.
The previous evening he had gone to bed in good spirits. A week had gone by at the station with nothing of importance happening, and he’d decided to take advantage of the situation to surprise Livia and appear at her doorstep in Boccadasse unannounced. He had turned out the light, lain down in bed, and fallen asleep almost immediately. He’d started dreaming at once.
“Cat, I’m leaving for Boccadasse tonight,” he’d said, walking into the station.
“I’m coming too!”
“No, you can’t.”
At this point Fazio cut in.
“I’m sorry, Chief, but you really can’t go to Boccadasse.”
Fazio looked a little apprehensive.
“Do you mean to tell me you’ve forgotten, Chief?”
“You died yesterday morning at exactly seven fifteen.”
And he pulled a little piece of paper out of his pocket.
“You, Salvo Montalbano, son of—”
“Knock it off with the public records! Did I really die?! How did it happen?”
“You had a stroke.”
“Here, at the station.”
“When you’s talkin’ witta c’mishner,” Catarella chimed in.
Apparently that sonofabitch Bonetti-Alderighi had pissed him off so badly that . . .
“If you want to come and have a look . . . ,” said Fazio, “a mortuary chapel was set up in your office.”
They’d pushed aside the mountains of paper on his desk and laid the open coffin there. He looked at himself. He didn’t look dead. But he was immediately convinced that the corpse in the coffin was his.
“Have you informed Livia?”
“Yes,” said Mimì Augello, coming up to him. Then he hugged him tightly and said, crying, “I’m so sorry.”
And a sort of chorus kept repeating:
“We’re so sorry.”
The chorus was made up of Bonetti-Alderighi, his cabinet chief Dr. Lattes, Jacomuzzi, Headmaster Burgio, and two undertakers.
“Thanks,” the inspector said.
Then Dr. Pasquano came forward.
“How did I die?” Montalbano asked him.
Pasquano flew off the handle.
“What! Still busting my balls, even in death! Just wait for the autopsy results!”
“But can’t you just give me a rough summary?”
“It looks like a sudden, massive stroke, but there are a few things that don’t—”
“Oh, no you don’t!” the commissioner broke in. “Inspector Montalbano can’t investigate his own death!”
“It wouldn’t be right. He’s too personally involved. Anyway, the law makes no allowance for that sort of thing. I’m sorry. The case will be assigned to the new captain of the flying squad.”
At this point Montalbano got worried and took Mimì aside.
“When is Livia coming?”
Mimì seemed uneasy.
“Well, she said . . .”
“She said what?”
Mimì stared at his shoes.
“She said she didn’t know.”
“Didn’t know what?”
“Whether she could make it to the funeral.”
He stormed out of the room, enraged, and ran into the courtyard, which was crowded with funeral wreaths and a waiting hearse. He pulled out his cell phone.
“Hello, Livia? Salvo here.”
“Hi, how are you? Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean . . .”
“What’s this about you not knowing if you can make it to—”
“Salvo, listen. If you had lived, I would have done everything in my power to stay with you. I might even have married you. After wasting my life chasing after you, what else could I do? But now that I’m suddenly faced with this unique opportunity, you must understand—”
He turned off the cell phone and went back inside. He noticed they’d put the lid back on the coffin and the cortège was starting to move.
“Are you coming?” Bonetti-Alderighi asked him.
“Yeah, I guess,” he replied.
But as soon as they got to the courtyard, one of the pallbearers fell, and the coffin crashed to the ground with a boom that woke him up.
After that, he’d been unable to fall back asleep, besieged by unanswered questions. One, above all, hammered away at him. What did Livia mean when she said she wanted to take advantage of the opportunity? Quite simply, it meant that his death represented a sort of liberation for her. The follow-up question could only be: How much truth was there in a dream? In this particular case, even a tiny grain of truth was too much.
Because it was true that Livia had had more than her fill. In fact, she’d had enough to fill a whole boatload of shipping containers. But how was it possible that his conscience only showed up in dreams, ruining his sleep? All the same, he thought, the fact that Livia had no intention of coming down to Sicily for his funeral was not right, whatever her reasons might be. In fact, it was downright mean.
When he got into the car to go the station, he noticed that the sea had come almost all the way up to the house and was less than a couple of feet from the parking area. He’d never seen the water come up this far. The beach was gone. It was all one great expanse of water.
It took him a good fifteen minutes and a couple of hundred curses before the car’s engine decided to do what it was supposed to do, and this, naturally, only aggravated the state of his nervous system, which was already on the ropes from the nasty weather conditions.
He’d gone barely fifty yards when he had to stop. There was a line of traffic extending as far as the eye could see—or, rather, as far as the windshield wipers, which couldn’t quite manage to wipe away the pouring rain, allowed the eye to see.
The column of traffic was made up entirely of cars headed towards Vigàta. In the opposite lane there wasn’t so much as a motor scooter.
After about ten minutes of this, he decided to pull out of the jam, turn back, and, at the junction with the Montereale road, take another route into town. It was longer, but it would, at least, get him to his destination.
But he was unable to budge, as the nose of his car was wedged right into the back of the car in front of him, and the car behind him had done the same to him.
It was hopeless. He had to stay put. He was trapped. Sandwiched. And the worst of it was that he had no idea what the hell had happened to create this situation.
After another twenty or so minutes he lost patience, opened the car door, and got out. In the twinkling of an eye he was soaked straight down to his underpants. He started running towards the front of the column of cars and soon came to the point of obstruction, the cause of which was immediately obvious: the sea had washed the road away. Completely. Both lanes were gone. In their place was a chasm, at the bottom of which lay not earth but yellowy, foamy water. The nose of the first car in the column was actually sticking out over the edge. Another ten inches and it would have plummeted below. The inspector, however, became immediately convinced that the car was still in danger, because the road surface was still crumbling, though very slowly. In some twenty minutes, that car was destined to be swallowed up by the chasm. The downpour made it impossible to see inside the vehicle.
He went up to the car and tapped on the window. After a pause it was opened barely a crack by a young woman just over thirty wearing eyeglasses with lenses as thick as bottle bottoms. She looked terrified.
She was alone in the car.
“You have to get out,” he said to her.
“I’m afraid your car’s going to get swallowed up if help doesn’t arrive immediately.”
She made a face like a child about to start crying.
“But where will I go?”
“Take whatever you need, and you can come in my car.”
She just looked at him and said nothing. Montalbano realized she didn’t trust him, a total stranger.
“Listen, I’m a police inspector.”
Perhaps it was the way he said it, but the girl seemed convinced. She grabbed a sort of handbag and got out of the car.
They started running side by side, then Montalbano had her get in his car.
Their clothes were so wet that when they sat down the weight of their bodies made the water ooze out of her jeans and his trousers.
“Montalbano’s the name.”
The young woman eyed him, bringing her head closer.
“Ah, yes. Now I recognize you. I’ve seen you on TV.”
She started sneezing and didn’t stop. When she’d finally finished, her eyes were watering. She removed her glasses, wiped her eyes, and put them back on.
“My name is Vanna. Vanna Digiulio.”
“Seems like you’re catching a cold.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Listen, do you want to come to my place? I’ve got some dry clothes that belong to my girlfriend. You could change into them and set these clothes out to dry.”
“I’m not sure that would be right,” she objected, suddenly reserved.
“You’re not sure what would be right?”
“For me to come to your place.”
What was she imagining? That he would jump on her the moment she entered? Did he give the impression of being that kind of man? And hadn’t she ever looked at herself in the mirror?
“Listen, if you’re not—”
“And how would we get to your house?”
“On foot. It’s barely fifty yards from here. It’s going to be hours before anyone gets us out of this jam.”
As Montalbano, after changing clothes, prepared a
for her and a mug of coffee for himself, Vanna took a shower, put on a dress of Livia’s that was a bit too wide for her, and came into the kitchen, crashing first into the doorjamb and then against a chair. How did she ever get a driver’s license, with eyes like hers? A rather homely girl, poor thing. When she was wearing jeans, one couldn’t tell, but now that she was wearing Livia’s dress, Montalbano noticed that she had bandy, muscular legs. They looked more like a man’s legs than a woman’s. And on top of almost nonexistent breasts and a mousy face, she even had an ungainly walk.