Young detective Salvo Montalbano is posted to a remote village in the Sicilian mountains, where he struggles to adapt to the somewhat unwelcoming climate, but a promotion and transfer bring him to the more agreeable seaside town of Vigata. Here he finds himself supervising a team of local policemen, including veteran Carmine Fazio and affable but bumbling agent Catarella. Montalbano's first case in Vigata involves investigating an attempted murder at the hands of a vulnerable young woman whose motives appear unfathomable.
It’s New Year’s Eve and Montalbano is still settling into his new post in Vigata when he is called to investigate the death of a hotel guest who has been shot through the window of his room by an anonymous gunman. The plot thickens when he learns that the rooms were switched just before the shooting. Meanwhile, our young police chief finally gets the opportunity to rent the house of his dreams, but his new housekeeper happens to be the mother of a criminal he's put away.
Just as he's starting to settle into his new job, Montalbano is surprised, and somewhat irked, by the unexpected arrival of the new deputy inspector, Mimi' Augello. The two soon find that their personalities are as alike as chalk and cheese. Together, they investigate the kidnapping of a young child and make the acquaintance of a beautiful Genoese architect, Livia Burlando. A rivalry immediately ensues for the girl's attentions.
Some unusual posters appear around Vigata in which the moral status of one of its female inhabitants is questioned. This soon becomes the talk of the town and Montalbano finds himself attempting to navigate the local gossip and resulting squabbles. But a murder forces more serious events onto the agenda, as Montalbano investigates the private and business life of the victim, uncovering a string of unsavoury facts in the process. Fazio returns to Vigata police station asking to be reinstated in his job following a bout of serious ill health. Salvo's father makes the acquaintance of new girlfriend Livia.
Montalbano receives an anonymous note predicting the death of a local construction worker, only to realise that the note has been delivered too late. Meanwhile, the public notice board announcing the town's forthcoming weddings is stolen. What at first appears to be an innocent prank gradually turns out to have more sinister overtones. Carmine Fazio's young son Giuseppe joins the investigating team following his father's retirement, but there are minor clashes between the enthusiastic new recruit and his boss.
As Livia and Salvo prepare to go on their first holiday together, Vigata is shaken by the murder of a rich old man. Meanwhile, a series of strange occurrences takes place involving the shooting of a number of animals at the hands of an elusive gunman. With little evidence to go on, Montalbano and his team struggle to understand the logic behind the animal killings and fear that the worst may be yet to come.
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?