My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It is impossible to do justice to a book like this, which has become a classic and in the opinion of many (me included) should be compulsory reading at school. It is the first Italian fiction book to deal with the mafia phenomenon, which is nowadays commonly accepted as a reality of many societies (not only Italy) but when Sciascia was writing, it certainly wasn’t.
The book deals with the murder of an entrepreneur, Colasberna, at the hands of the mafia. Carabinieri Captain Bellodi, who is originally from Parma in the north of the country, is determined to identify the culprit, but despite the murder having taken place on a crowded bus and in a public place, no witnesses come forward and nobody has heard or seen anything. Bellodi meets the local Godfather, who assures him the mafia doesn’t exist, a concept repeated in Parliament where a politician claims it is an invention of the communists. The real culprits have unassailable alibis and the murder is declared a crime of passion, attributed to the lover of Colasberna’s wife.
Sciascia is ground-breaking not only because he is one of the first gialli writers, but also because he writes about contemporary criminal reality, which he knew well as a Sicilian and as a member of Parliament. He also is one of the first writers to have a strong impegno, the socio-political commitment which is a denunciation of everyday real life, where justice is not always made. In this book, as in many others (especially Italian) there is no “happy” ending (as much as a book with a murder can have a happy ending), no closure, no sense that justice has been made. And this is exactly why these books have become classics.