Friday, July 25, 2008

To Each His Own by Leonardo Sciascia

A traditional amateur detective drama, To Each His Own starts when the town pharmacist, on the eve of the opening of hunting season, receives a death threat in the mail. "This letter is your death sentence. To avenge what you have done you will die."

But Manno, the man who receives the warning, is convinced he has done no wrong and dismisses the letter as a joke. The next day, he and his hunting companion, Dr. Roscio, are found shot to death. After a cursory investigation by the town marshal, there are no obvious suspects and no obvious motives until Professor Lauranna, a literary minded schoolteacher who still lives with his mother, spots a clue in the letter that the police had dismissed. He decides to investigate the crime himself – more out of need for some intellectual distraction than out of a sense for justice. As he digs deeper, this curious and repressed mamma’s boy discovers that the motive for murder lies in the town’s politics as well as in family loyalty. Since the setting is a small town in Sicily, secrets, lies, collusion and violence penetrate every single aspect of life, especially family and politics, and because of this, the ending is shockingly unexpected for the genre.

Very well done and highly recommended.

A word of caution: The New York Review of Books recently reprinted To Each His Own under its "classics" issues. Beware, the edition published by the New York Review of Books has a wonderful introduction to the novel in the beginning. Save this for after you have read the book. While the introduction is good, it gives too much of the plot away!