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The Potter’s Field

An Inspector Montalbano Mystery by Andrea Camilleri 

The fictional Montalbano's home is just a few yards from the sea on the Sicilian coast
The fictional Montalbano's home is just a few
yards from the sea on the Sicilian coast
As if investigating a suspected Mafia killing in atrocious weather isn’t difficult enough, Inspector Montalbano also finds himself having to solve the puzzle of the morose and quarrelsome behaviour of his friend and deputy, Mim
ì Augello, in this thirteenth novel in the police series set in Sicily.

After a terrifying dream in which the real-life Mafia boss, Totò Riina, has become prime minister and offers Montalbano the job of Minister of the Interior, the Inspector is woken by loud banging at his front door, where he finds one of his men, Catarella, who has come to his house to tell him about the discovery of a dead body. 

Under a relentless downpour, Montalbano and his men succeed in retrieving the body from where it has slid down a slope. It has been cut into pieces, put inside a bag and buried in a field of clay on the island, which is used by potters.

The Inspector has to find out the identity of the victim, why the body has been cut into 30 pieces and for what reason it has been left in The Potter’s Field. An added complication is a series of phone calls Montalbano receives from his long-distance girlfriend, Livia. Mimì’s wife, Beba, is in regular contact with Livia and has been telling her that Montalbano has been treating her husband very badly, requiring him to do regular all night stake outs, which is affecting their marriage.

Knowing there have been no recent all-night stake outs, the Inspector has no idea what is going on, but he allows Livia to believe that what she has been told is true to give him time to find out more about it. 

The Potter's Field is the 13th Montalbano novel
The Potter's Field is the 13th
Montalbano novel
He asks his Swedish friend, Ingrid, to follow Mimì to see where he goes at night, guessing he is probably seeing another woman. When Ingrid visits Montalbano’s apartment late at night to report back to him, the Inspector is terrified when the phone rings and it is Livia, who immediately senses someone is there with him.

The murder inquiry becomes more complicated when a beautiful South American woman comes to the police station to report that her husband is missing and Montalbano discovers that the man, a ship’s officer, just happens to be a distant relative of a local Mafia boss.

Discussing Mafia rituals with his officer, Fazio, leads to Montalbano recalling a passage from the Bible. He looks it up in the Gospel according to Matthew and reads the passage recounting the suicide of Judas, where he comes to the phrase ‘...the potter’s field to bury strangers in …’. 

Montalbano feels an actual shock go through his body as he finally has a clue about what lay behind the decision to cut the victim up in 30 pieces. 

But this time Montalbano not only has to solve a murder, he has to try to extricate Mimì from the trouble he is in. And he contrives to enable Mimì to take the credit for finding out who is responsible for the murder of the cut up body found in the potter’s field. 

It is a tall order, but Montalbano is cheered up by regularly eating at Enzo’s trattoria, where he consumes in just one of his meals whitebait, octopus, pasta with sea urchins and striped red mullet. 

He also finds the time to play a practical joke on his arch enemy, Pippo Ragonese, the top newsman at TeleVigàta

The Potter’s Field was first published in Italian as Il campo del vasaio in 2008. It was translated into English in 2011 by Stephen Sartarelli. I found it to be as ingenious as it was entertaining and would definitely recommend it.

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