This is the seventh episode in the Montalbano series, and the first which hasn’t (yet) been shown on the BBC. I’ve watched it on a DVD in the original Italian.
Camilleri is usually more neutral than other Italian writers in his political and social stance, but in this episode the difference with his usual detachment is quite striking. It opens with Montalbano wanting to quit, and a shouting match between the disillusioned commissario and his second in command Mimi Augello, retorting that by leaving he would disappoint all his hard-working and honest colleagues, with all their shortcomings, rather than the corrupt higher echelons of a system he doens’t believe in.
This follows a real episode during the G8 conference in Genova in 2001, where the police broke into a school (Scuola Diaz) which had become the headquarters of the activists and a huge confrontation ensued, resulting in 93 arrests and 61 casualties (some of which remained in critical conditions). The police forces were accused of excessive use of violence and further trials saw members of the forces condemned for a number of criminal acts ranging from lying under oath to fabricating evidence. All in all, a very embarrassing chapter for the Italian police.
The Camilleri story also touches upon the problem of illegal immigration and human trafficking. While on his daily swim Salvo finds a dead body floating in the water. The time it has been in the water is inconsistent with the condition of the body itself, but all elements seem to point to the victim been a criminal from another area of Sicily. By chance, Salvo’s friend Ingrid recognises the dead man as an ex-lover of hers, and gives Salvo some vital elements for solving the case.
In the meantime, Salvo goes to the landing place of a boat of immigrants and sees a child running away from his mother; he convinces the child to go back and go to the hospital with his mother, but then discovers that they had not gone there. The child is then killed in a hit-and-run and Salvo believes it wasn’t an accident. This leads him to find the organiser of a human trafficking ring where children are used in all sorts of unsavoury activities, from begging to becoming unwilling organ donors.
I enjoyed this episode, which has all the typical Camilleri elements – food, sunshine, Montalbano’s morning swims in the sea – as well as some social commentary on recent facts (the book was originally published in 2003, relatively shortly after the G8) which I found rather welcome. As in all the other episodes, the quality of acting is rather inconsistent: Luca Zingaretti, playing Montalbano, is excellent, and so are the main characters, but the actors playing minor characters are often quite bad. Technically, the films aren’t great either, but the views are wonderful and the stories entertaining: i think they are a great way to spend a relaxing evening in front of the tv.