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l'altro capo del filo

3 november 2016

In the middle of Andrea Camilleri's new novel L'altro capo del filo, Livia has been badgering her boyfriend Salvo Montalbano into going to the tailor to have a new suit made. He calls her up: can't go to the tailor's tomorrow, the tailor has been murdered. She calls him an idiot and hangs up. Is there any length Montalbano won't go to in order to avoid growing up?

But the tailor really has been murdered. Salvo wouldn't joke about a thing like that. I think. Elena, beautiful, brilliant, unapproachable, has been stabbed with a pair of her own tailor's scissors in her own workshop, and left to die in a pool of blood on the floor. Most puzzlingly, she seems to have known her attacker, who must have been covered in gore after the murder – but who has escaped through a frequented city without drawing attention.

Elena's murder takes place against the backdrop of the 2016 migrant crisis in Sicily. Boatloads of people arrive every day from every corner of Africa and the Middle East, and Montalbano's men are overtaxed trying to manage the flow of arrivals. Crimes and disagreements break out among the migrants and the shady characters who help them enter the EU.

Camilleri, now 90, nearly blind, acknowledges the help, material and inventive, of Valentina Alferj in the writing of L'altro capo del filo. He is now writing with assistance, but more boldly and topically than ever. The situation of migrants has been a theme in the Montalbano novels since Il ladro di merendine in 1996, and the exigence of that theme has only grown. It is great to see Camilleri writing anything these days – to see him expanding his horizons and deepening his social commentary is a wonder.

I thought at first that "l'altro capo del filo" would have something to do with tailoring, since it can mean "the other end of the thread." But the title actually refers to the other end of a telephone line, and the sinister interlocutor there.

Po' arriflittì che aviva adopirato malamenti la parola filo, pirchì le tilefonate … erano state sul cellulari.

[Then he realized that he'd used the word "line" inaccurately, since the calls … were made on a cell phone.] (238)

Camilleri, Andrea. L'altro capo del filo. Palermo: Sellerio, 2016.