This prequel to the Inspector Montalbano film series opens in the early 90s when Salvatore Montalbano, a talented young policeman, is promoted to the post of commissioner and transferred to Vigata. There he finds himself supervising a group of agents that include Carmine Fazio, many years his senior, and quirky Sicilian, Catarella.
Pasqualino Cutufa' is a Vigata inhabitant who for years has made a habit of showing up at other people's funerals mourning their deaths. Despite having no enemies in the town, one day Pasqualino is found brutally murdered in the street. His death seems totally inexplicable, until the disappearance of a woman linked to his former employer gives Montalbano his first lead. Meanwhile, Livia has come to stay at Marinella, but her behaviour is erratic and Salvo starts to suspect that something may be wrong.
Inspector Mimi' Auguello is especially eager to be picked as Salvo's wedding witness, but Salvo may well have other plans.
Meanwhile, Montalbano is taking on some new cases. A fire at a local hotel which resulted in a man's death is suspected to have been caused by arson, while police receive an anonymous letter warning of the impending murder of a married woman at the hands of her jealous husband.
Montalbano investigates the seemingly accidental killing of a fisherman aboard a Vigata fishing boat and uncovers far-reaching criminal activity in the process.
During the investigation, Fazio seems distracted and Montalbano soon discovers that the young policeman has become involved in protecting a local family from death threats during his spare time.
Meanwhile, as the wedding preparations continue, Livia's and Salvo's relationship looks like it might have run into trouble.
Barely a month has passed since Livia and Salvo decided to spend some time apart. Salvo is gloomy and confused. While investigating the robbery of some 60 security boxes at a small local bank, he seeks the advice of rival bank manager Stella Parenti, whom he'd met during a previous case. Alluring Stella makes no secret of being taken with Salvo and asks him out. Has Montalbano found a way to eclipse his melancholy thoughts of Livia?
Meanwhile, another case presents itself to the Vigata inspector - a retired doctor is found murdered in his own home. The resulting investigation will echo Montalbano's personal dilemmas about the complexities of love.
Salvo requests a transfer to Genoa so that he can be closer to Livia, but it's clear that the prospect of leaving his beloved Sicily is a tough one. Meanwhile, a Milanese barmaid who had been living in Vigata goes missing, and the investigation must navigate the many speculations about the young woman's promiscuous sex life. Montalbano divides his time between trying to find the missing girl and investigating a bout of unusual burglaries, in which the victims report the theft of bafflingly small amounts of money.
Everything is ready for Salvo's move to Genova - except, it would seem, Salvo himself. As he contemplates a new life away from his beloved Sicily and prepares to hand his role over to his deputy, soon to be inspector, Mimi' Augello, Montalbano can't help but be drawn deep into one last investigation.
A young woman has been found dead in what appears to have been a tragic accident, her car discovered at the bottom of a cliff with her body in it. But the evidence doesn't add up and, despite Augello's readiness to accept the easy conclusion, Montalbano remains convinced that the inconsistencies of the case need unpicking further. With only a few days to go till his planned move, will our most Sicilian of inspectors manage to extricate himself from Vigata?