Angelica’s Smile by Andrea Camilleri – Extract

Angelica's Smile


He awoke with a start and sat up in bed, eyes already open. He was sure he’d heard someone talking in his bedroom. And since he was alone in the house, he was alarmed.

Then he started laughing, having remembered that Livia had arrived unannounced at his place that evening. The surprise visit had pleased him immensely, at least at first. And there she was now, sleeping soundly beside him. A still-violet shaft of the dawn’s very earliest light shone through the shutter. He let his eyelids droop without bothering to look at the clock, in hopes of getting a few more hours of sleep.

But then his eyes suddenly popped open again. Something had just occurred to him.

If someone had spoken in his bedroom, it could only have been Livia. She had therefore been talking in her sleep. But this had never happened before. Or perhaps it wasn’t the first time. But if she had in fact talked in her sleep before, she’d done it so quietly that it hadn’t woken him.

And it was possible she was, at that moment, still in the same dream state and might say a few more words.

So this was an opportunity not to be missed.

People who suddenly start talking in their sleep can’t help but say true things, the truths that they have inside them. He remembered reading that it was impossible to tell lies or stretch the truth in a dream state, because one is defenceless when asleep, as helpless and innocent as a baby.

It was very important not to miss anything Livia said. Important for two reasons. The first was general in nature, being that a man can live a hundred years at a woman’s side, sleep with her, have children with her, breathe the same air as her, and think he knows her as well as humanly possible, and still, in the end, feel as though he never really knows what she is like deep inside.

The other reason was more specific and immediate.

He carefully got out of bed and went and looked through the slats of the shutter. It promised to be a lovely day, without clouds or wind.

Then he went over to Livia’s side of the bed, pulled up a chair, and sat down at the head, as in an all-night vigil at the hospital.

The previous evening – and this was the more specific reason – Livia had made a huge fuss in a fit of jealousy, ruining the pleasure of her surprise visit.

Things had gone as follows.

The telephone had rung and she went to answer.

But as soon as she said hello, a woman’s voice at the other end said: ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I must have the wrong number.’ And promptly hung up.

And so Livia got it in her head that the caller was a woman he was having an affair with, that they’d arranged to meet that evening, and that when she’d heard Livia’s voice she’d hung up.

‘I guess I rained on your parade, eh? . . . When the cat’s away, the mice will play! . . . Out of sight, out of mind! . . .’

There was no making her see reason, and things ended terribly because Montalbano had reacted badly, disgusted not so much by Livia’s suspicions as by the endless barrage of clichés she fired at him.

So now Montalbano was hoping that Livia would say something stupid in her sleep, anything that might give him ammunition for a proper revenge.

He suddenly had a great desire to smoke a cigarette, but restrained himself – first, because if Livia woke up and found him smoking in the bedroom, a revolution might break out, and second, because the smoke itself might wake her up.

About two hours later, he got a cramp in his left calf.

To make it go away, he started swinging his leg back and forth and, as a result, ended up giving the wooden bedframe a violent kick with his bare foot.

It hurt like hell, but he managed to hold back the avalanche of curses that threatened to burst out.

The kick had an effect, however, because Livia sighed, moved a little, and then spoke.

Giving first a little laugh, in a full voice with no trace of hoarseness, she said distinctly: ‘No, Carlo, not from behind.’

Montalbano nearly fell out of his chair. This was a bit too much of a good thing, for Christ’s sake!

A couple of muttered words would have sufficed, just enough for him to build a castle of baseless accusations, Jesuit-like.

But Livia had uttered a whole sentence, loud and clear!


As if she had been wide awake.

And it was a sentence that suggested just about everything, even the worst.

She had never said a word to him about any Carlo.

Why not?

If she’d never mentioned him, there must be a reason. And what exactly was it she didn’t want Carlo to do to her from behind?

Did that mean: from in front, OK, but not from behind?

He broke into a cold sweat.

He was tempted to wake Livia up, shake her roughly and, glaring wild-eyed, ask her in an imperious, cop-like voice: ‘Who is Carlo? Is he your lover?’

But she was a woman, after all.

And therefore likely to deny everything, even when groggy with sleep. No, that would be a wrong move.

It was best to summon the strength to wait a while and try to broach the subject at the right moment.

But when was the right moment?

Anyway, he would need to have a certain amount of time at his disposal, since it would be a mistake to bring the question up directly. Livia would immediately go on the defensive. No, he needed to take a roundabout approach, without arousing any suspicion.

He decided to go and have a shower.

Going back to bed was out of the question now.


He was drinking his first coffee of the morning when the telephone rang.

It was eight o’clock. He wasn’t in the mood to hear about any little murders. If anything, he might kill somebody himself instead, given half a chance.

Preferably someone by the name of Carlo. He’d guessed right. It was Catarella.

‘Ahh, Chief, Chief! Wha’z ya doin’, sleepin’?’

‘No, Cat, I was awake. What’s up?’ ‘Wha’ss up is ’ere’s a buggery tha’ss up.’

Montalbano hesitated. Then it dawned on him.

‘A burglary, you mean? So why are you bothering me, then?’

‘Chief, beckin’ yer partin’, bu—’

‘But nothing! No beckons or partings! Phone Inspector Augello at once!’

Catarella was about to start crying.

‘’Ass jess what I wannit a say t’yiz, ya gotta ’scuse me, Chief. I wannit a say ’at Isspecter Augello was let go whereas of diss mornin’.’

Montalbano was stumped. You couldn’t even sack your housekeeper these days!

‘Let go? Who by?’

‘Bu’, Chief, i’s youse yisself ’at let ’im go yisterday aftanoon!’

Montalbano remembered.

‘Cat, he took a leave of absence, he wasn’t let go!’

‘Bu’ ya gotta let ’im go f ’r ’im to be assbent!’

‘Listen, was Fazio let go too?’

‘’Ass also what I wannit a tell yiz. Dis mornin’ ’ere’s some trouble atta market an’ so the afficer in quession izzatta scene o’ the crime.’

It was hopeless. He would have to look into it himself. ‘All right, is the aggrieved party there?’

Catarella paused for a moment before speaking. ‘’Ere meanin’ where, Chief ?’

‘There, at the station, where else?’

‘Chief, how’s I asposta know ’oo this man is?’ ‘Is he there or isn’t he?’


‘The aggrieved party.’

Catarella remained silent.


Catarella didn’t answer.

Montalbano thought the line had gone dead.

And he fell prey to that tremendous, cosmic, irrational fear that came over him whenever a phone call was cut off, as if he was the last person left alive in the universe.

He started shouting like a madman. ‘Hello! Hello!’

‘I’m right ’ere, Chief.’

‘Why don’t you answer?’

‘Chief, promiss ya won’ get upset if I tell yiz I dunno wha’ss a grieve party?’

Calm and patient, Montalbà, calm and patient.

‘That’d be the person who got robbed, Cat.’

‘Oh, that person! Bu’ iss no party f ’r ’im, Chief!’

‘What’s his name, Cat?’

‘ ’Is name’s Piritone.’

Which in Sicilian means big fart. Was it possible? ‘Are you sure that’s his name?’

‘Swear to God, Chief. Carlo Piritone.’

Montalbano felt like screaming. Two Carlos the same morning was too much to bear.

‘Is Mr Piritone at the station?’

‘Nah, Chief, ’e jess called. ’E lives a’ Via Cavurro, nummer toitteen.’

‘Ring him and tell him I’m on my way.’

Livia hadn’t been woken up by either the phone or his yelling. In her sleep she had a faint smile on her lips.

Maybe she was still dreaming about Carlo. The bitch. He felt overwhelmed by uncontrollable rage. Grabbing a chair, he lifted it up and slammed it down on the floor.

Livia woke up suddenly, frightened. ‘What was that?’

‘Nothing, I’m sorry. I have to go out. I’ll be back for lunch. Ciao.’

He ran out to avoid starting a fight.


Via Cavour was in the part of Vigàta where the rich people lived.

It had been designed by an architect who deserved a life sentence at the very least. One house looked like a Spanish galleon from the time of the pirates, while the one beside it was clearly inspired by the Pantheon in Rome . . .

Montalbano pulled up in front of number 13, which looked like the Pyramid of Menkaure, got out of the car, and went into the building. On the left was a little booth of wood and glass with the porter in it.

‘Can you tell me what floor Mr Piritone lives on?’

The porter, a tall, burly man of about fifty who clearly spent a lot of time at the gym, put down the newspaper he was reading, took off his glasses, stood up, opened the door of the booth, and came out.

‘No need to bother,’ said Montalbano, ‘all I need is—’ ‘All you need is for someone to smash your face in,’ said the porter, raising a clenched fist.

Montalbano cringed and took a step back. What was his problem?

‘Wait, listen, there must be some kind of misunderstanding. I’m looking for a Mr Piritone and I am—’

‘You’d better make yourself scarce, and fast – I mean it.’

Montalbano lost patience. ‘I’m Inspector Montalbano, damn it!’

The man looked surprised. ‘Really?’

‘Would you like to see my ID?’ The porter turned red in the face.

‘Christ, it’s true! Now I rec’nize ya! I’m sorry, I thought you were somebody tryin’ t’ fuck wit’ me. I apologize, sir. But look, there’s nobody here named Piritone.’

Naturally, Catarella, as usual, had given him the wrong name.

‘Is there anyone with a similar name?’

‘There’s a Dr Peritore.’

‘That could be him. What floor?’


The porter walked him to the lift, endlessly excusing himself and bowing.

It occurred to Montalbano that one of these days Catarella, by screwing up every name he gave him, was going to get him shot by someone who was a little on edge.


The slender, blond, well-dressed, bespectacled man of about forty who opened the door for the inspector was not as obnoxious as the inspector had hoped.

‘Good morning, I’m Montalbano.’

‘Please come in, Inspector, just follow me. I was forewarned of your visit. Naturally the apartment is a mess; my wife and I didn’t want to touch anything before you saw it.’

‘You’re right, I should have a look around.’ Bedroom, dining room, guest room, living room, study, kitchen, and two bathrooms, all turned upside down.

Wardrobes and cabinets thrown open, contents scattered all over the floor, a bookcase completely emptied and the books strewn everywhere, desks and consoles with all their drawers open.

Policemen and burglars had one thing in common when searching somebody’s home: an earthquake left things in better order.

In the kitchen was a young woman of about thirty, also blonde, pretty and polite.

‘This is my wife, Caterina.’

‘Would you like a coffee?’ the woman asked. ‘Sure, why not?’ said the inspector.

After all, the kitchen was less topsy-turvy than any of the other rooms.

‘Maybe it’s best if we talk in here,’ said Montalbano, sitting down in a chair.

Peritore did the same.

‘The front door didn’t look forced to me,’ the inspector continued. ‘Did they come in through the windows?’

‘No, they just used our keys,’ said Peritore.

He stuck a hand in his pocket, took out a set of keys, and put them on the table.

‘They left them in the entrance hall.’

‘I’m sorry. So you weren’t home when the burglary occurred?’

‘No. Last night we slept at our seaside house, at Punta Piccola.’

‘Ah. And how did you get in if the burglars had your keys?’

‘I always keep an extra set with the porter.’

‘I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand. So where did the burglars get the keys they used to enter your apartment?’

‘From our seaside house.’

‘While you were asleep?’


‘And they didn’t steal anything from that house?’

‘They certainly did.’

‘So in fact there were two burglaries?’

‘That’s right.’

‘I beg your pardon, Inspector,’ said Signora Caterina, pouring his coffee. ‘Maybe it’s better if I tell you. My husband is having trouble putting his thoughts in order. So. This morning we woke up around six, both of us with headaches. And we immediately realized that someone had broken in through the front door of our seaside home, knocked us out with some sort of gas, and had the run of the place.’

‘You didn’t hear anything?’

‘Nothing at all.’

‘Strange. Because, you see, they had to break through your front door before they could gas you. You just said so yourself. And so, you should have heard . . .’

‘Well, we were . . .’ The woman blushed.

‘You were?’

‘Let’s say we were a bit tipsy. We were celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary.’

‘I see.’

‘I don’t think we would even have heard a cannon go off.’

‘Go on.’

‘The burglars apparently found my husband’s wallet in his jacket, along with his ID card and our address – this one, I mean – as well as the keys to this place and to the car. So they quietly got into our car, came here, opened the door, stole what they wanted to steal, and went on their way.’

‘What did they take?’

‘Well, aside from the car, not very much from the seaside house, relatively speaking. Our wedding rings, my husband’s Rolex, my diamond watch, a rather expensive necklace of mine, two thousand euros in cash, both of our computers, mobile phones, and our credit cards, which we immediately had cancelled.’

Not very much? If you say so.

‘And a seascape by Carrà,’ the lady concluded, cool as a cucumber.

Montalbano gave a start.

‘A seascape by Carrà? And you had it out there, just like that?’

‘Well, we were hoping no one would know how much it was worth.’

Whereas the burglars certainly did know how much it was worth.

‘And what about here?’

‘Here they made off with a lot more. For starters, my jewellery box with everything inside.’

‘Valuable stuff?’

‘About a million and a half euros.’

‘What else?’

‘My husband’s four other Rolexes. He collects them.’ ‘And that’s it?’

‘Fifty thousand euros in cash. And . . .’


‘A Guttuso, a Morandi, a Donghi, a Mafai, and a Pirandello that my husband’s father left to him in his will,’ the woman said in a single breath.

In short, a whole gallery of art worth a fortune.

‘One question,’ said the inspector. ‘Who knew that you were going to your house at Punta Piccola to celebrate your wedding anniversary?’

Husband and wife looked at each other for a moment. ‘Well, our friends did,’ the woman replied.

‘How many friends do you mean?’

‘About fifteen.’

‘Do you have a housekeeper?’


‘Did she know too?’


‘Are you insured against burglary?’


‘Listen,’ said Montalbano, standing up. ‘You have to come to the station immediately and file an official report. I would like a detailed description of the jewellery, the Rolexes, and the paintings.’

‘All right.’

‘I would also like a complete list of those friends of yours who were informed of your movements, with their addresses and telephone numbers.’

The woman gave a little laugh. ‘You don’t suspect them, I hope?’ Montalbano looked at her.

‘Do you think they’ll be offended?’


‘Then don’t tell them anything. I’ll be the first. See you later, at the station.’

Excerpted from Angelica’s Smile by Andrea Camilleri. Copyright © 2010 by Sellerio Editore. Translation copyright 2013 by Stephen Sartarelli.

First published 2013 by Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,New York. First published in the UK 2014 by Mantle, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited, 20 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RR, Basingstoke and Oxford. Associated companies throughout the world
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Pan Macmillan Australia solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


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