Cover image for The Brewer of Preston : a novel
The Brewer of Preston : a novel
Camilleri, Andrea., author.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Birraio di Preston. English
Publication Information:
New York : Penguin Books, 2014.
Physical Description:
245 pages ; 20 cm
"The New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Montalbano series brings us back to Vigàta in the nineteenth century for a rip-roaring comic novel. 1870s Sicily. Much to the displeasure of Vigàta's stubborn populace, the town has just been unified under the Kingdom of Italy. They're now in the hands of a new government they don't understand, and they definitely don't like. Eugenio Bortuzzi has been named Prefect for Vigàta, a regional representative from the Italian government to oversee the town. But the rowdy and unruly Sicilians don't care much for this rather pompous mainlander nor the mediocre opera he's hell-bent on producing in their new municipal theater. The Brewer of Preston, it's called, and the Vigàtese are revving up to wreak havoc on the performance's opening night"--
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The New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Montalbano series brings us back to Vigàta in the nineteenth century for a rip-roaring comic novel.

1870s Sicily. Much to the displeasure of Vigàta's stubborn populace, the town has just been unified under the Kingdom of Italy. They're now in the hands of a new government they don't understand, and they definitely don't like. Eugenio Bortuzzi has been named Prefect for Vigàta, a regional representative from the Italian government to oversee the town. But the rowdy and unruly Sicilians don't care much for this rather pompous mainlander nor the mediocre opera he's hell-bent on producing in their new municipal theater. The Brewer of Preston , it's called, and the Vigàtese are revving up to wreak havoc on the performance's opening night.

Author Notes

Andrea Camilleri lives in Italy.

Andrea Camilleri was born in Porto Empedocle, Sicily on September 6, 1925. He began his studies at Faculty of Literature in 1944 but never finished. He started to publish poems and short stories. He studied stage and film direction at the Silvio D'Amico Academy of Dramatic Arts from 1948 to 1950 and soon began work as a director and screen writer. Andrea Camilleri worked on several TV productions such as Inspector Maigret wirh Gino Cervi. In 1971 he returned to the Academy of Dramatic Arts holding the chair of Movie Direction and keeping it for 20 years. In 1978 he wrote his first novel - The Way Things Go which was followed by A Thread of Smoke in 1980. In 1992 he published The Hunting Season which turned out to be a best seller. In 1994 Andrea Camilleri published the first in a long series of novels - The Shape of Water which features the character Inspector Montalbano - a ficticious Sicilian detective in the police force of Vigata, an imaginary Sicilian town. The TV adaption of this book took off in popularity and Andrea Camilleri's home town was renamed Porto Empedocle Vigata. In 1998 he won the Nino Mortoglio International Book Award. He received an honorary degree from the University of Pisa in 2005.

Camilleri has worked as a television and theater director, as well as a screenwriter. In 1978 he wrote his first novel, Il Corso delle Cose. The Montalbano series, featuring the Sicilian detective Inspector Montalbano, is Camilleri's most famous work of fiction, and it has been adapted into a television series.

Camilleri won the Nino Martoglio International Book Award in 1998. He is considered to be one of Italy's greatest contemporary writers.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Fans of Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series (Angelica's Smile, etc.) will relish this amusing, playful tale set in Vigàta, Sicily, in 1874. The citizens of Vigàta are smarting under the rule of the prefect of Montelusa, Eugenio Bortuzzi, who has decided that the town's impressive new theater will be inaugurated by a performance of The Brewer of Preston. The opera was written by a mediocre composer, Luigi Ricci, who once presented a rehashing of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro as his own work. Grumbles from the Vigàta Civic Club reach the ear of Bortuzzi via the tongue of Emanuele "Uncle Memè" Ferraguto, a self-serving toady. Fire strikes the theater mere hours after its inauspicious opening. A series of absurd incidents follow in almost random fashion, some comic, some tragic. Camilleri cleverly ends the novel with chapter one, which provides the perfect summation that proves history is written (or rewritten) by the survivors. Agent: Donatella Barbieri, Agenzia Letteraria Internazionale (Italy). (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

In his second hilarious historical outing (after Hunting Season), the author of the "Commissario Montalbano" police procedurals returns to the fictional 19th-century Sicilian town of Vigata, where the forced performance of a second-rate opera titled The Brewer of Preston has the good townspeople subverting all law and order for a brief while. Camilleri is a great plotter, and his books are filled with action (mayhem, usually), but the dominant note in all his fiction is humor. Sometimes the amusing prose is sly and witty, but most usually it's demotic, outright bawdy. Translator Sardarellli-the translator from heaven, so good is he-points out in his notes that Camilleri starts every chapter with a direct quote or playful paraphrase of the opening line taken from other authors' books, including the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Herman Melville to Ray Bradbury and Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. The author's literacy sits lightly throughout but is another small cunning pleasure in a book full of delightful surprises. VERDICT Camilleri has many fans; this book should have broad appeal and only add to his reader base.-David Keymer, Modesto, CA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



-- The Wall Street Journal -- Shelf Awareness -- Publishers Weekly -- Library Journal -- The New York Times Book Review -- Los Angeles Times -- USA Today -- The Washington Post Book World -- The Nation "Camilleri can do a character's whole backstory in half a paragraph." -- The New Yorker -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review) -- Houston Chronicle -- The Village Voice "In Sicily, where people do things as they please, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a bona fide folk hero." -- The New York Times Book Review -- New York Journal of Books -- The New York Sun To request Penguin Readers Guides by mail (while supplies last), please call (800) 778-6425 or e-mail To access Penguin Readers Guides online, visit our Web site at It was a frightful night It was a frightful night, downright scary. As a thunderclap more boisterous than the rest rattled the windowpanes, young Gerd Hoffer, not yet ten years old, woke up with a start, realizing at the same time that he needed to go. It was an old story, this pee problem. The doctors' diagnosis was that ever since birth the child had suffered from weak retention--of the kidneys, that is--and that it was therefore natural for him to relieve himself in bed. His father, however--mining engineer Fridolin Hoffer--wouldn't hear of it. He could not resign himself to having brought a waste of a German boy into the world, and thus he believed that what was needed was not medical care but a Kantian education of the will. For this reason, every morning that the good Lord brought upon the earth, he would inspect his son's bed, raising the blanket or sheet, depending on the season, insert an inquisitorial hand, and inevitably find a wet spot, whereupon he would deal the boy a powerful slap on the cheek, which would swell up like a muffin under the effect of brewer's yeast. This time, to avoid his father's customary morning punishment, Gerd got up in the dark to the light of the thunderbolts and set out on a tentative journey to the privy, heart galloping in fear of the dangers and ambushes lurking in the night. One time a lizard had climbed up his leg, another time he had crushed a cockroach underfoot, making a squishy sound the mere thought of which still turned his stomach. Reaching the latrine, he rolled his nightshirt up over his belly and began to urinate. Meanwhile he looked out the low window, as he always did, onto Vigàta and its sea, a few miles beyond Montelusa. He would get excited whenever he managed to spot the faint glow of an acetylene lamp on some lost paranza . A kind of music would burst forth in his head, a rush of sensations he couldn't express; only a few scattered words would appear and glitter like stars in a black sky. He would start to sweat and, when back in bed, could no longer fall back asleep, tossing and turning until the bedsheets became a sort of hangman's rope around his neck. A number of years later he would become a poet and author, but he did not know this yet. That night it was different. Between the lightning, the thunder, and the flashes on the horizon, all of which frightened him as much as they fascinated him, he saw a phenomenon he had never seen before. Over Vigàta, the sun or something similar seemed to be rising. This, however, was utterly impossible, since his father had shown him, with Teutonic precision and a wealth of scientific detail, that the first light of day always arrived from the opposite direction--that is, from the great picture window in the dining room. He looked more carefully; there could no longer be any doubt: a reddish half-moon covered the sky over Vigàta. Against the light, he could actually see the shapes of the most elevated buildings, the ones on the Piano della Lanterna, which loomed over the town. He knew from painful experience how dangerous it was to wake his father up when he was fast asleep, but he decided that this time the circumstances called for it. Because there were only two possibilities: either the earth, having grown weary of always turning in the same direction, had changed course (the very idea of it made his head spin with excitement, born as he was a poet and author); or his father had, for once, fallen short of his sovereign infallibility (and this second prospect made his head spin even more, born as he was a son). He headed towards his father's room, happy that his mother wasn't there--she was in Tübingen to help out Grandma Wilhelmina--and, the moment he entered, he was overwhelmed by the cataclysmic snoring of the engineer, a great hulk of a man measuring almost six foot six and weighing nearly nineteen stone, with red crew-cut hair and a big handlebar mustache, also red. The boy touched the noisy mass and withdrew his hand at once, as if he had burnt himself. "Eh?" said his father, eyes immediately wide open, as he was a light sleeper. " Vater ," Gerd muttered. "Father." " Was ist denn? What's wrong?" asked the engineer, striking a match and lighting the lamp on his nightstand. "The night's making light over Vigàta." "Light? What light? Morning light?" "Yes, Vater ." Without saying another word, the engineer gestured to his son to draw near, and as soon as the boy was within reach, he dealt him a terrific slap. The child staggered, brought a hand to his cheek, but only hardened in his resolve. He repeated: "That's right, Vater , it's making morning light over Vigàta." "Ko at vunce to your room!" the engineer ordered him. Never would he let his son's eyes--which he presumed to be innocent--see him get out of bed in his nightshirt. Gerd obeyed. Something strange must be happening, the engineer thought as he put on a dressing gown and headed to the bathroom. A single glance was more than enough to convince him that, never mind the morning light, a fire, and a big one, had broken out in Vigàta. If he listened hard, he could even hear a church bell ringing frantically. " Mein Gott! " said the engineer, almost breathless. Then, barely containing his urge to shout for joy, he frantically got dressed, opened the main drawer of his desk, withdrew a big golden trumpet equipped with a cordon to sling it over the shoulder, and raced out of the house without bothering to shut the door behind him. Once in the street, he let out a long whinny of contentment and began to run. Thanks to the fire, he would have his first chance to test the ingenious fire-extinguishing device he was planning to patent, which he had built from his own designs over long months of passionate labor during off-hours from the mine. It was a broad cart without side panels, and a thick slab of iron nailed onto its flat bed. Tightly screwed onto this slab was a sort of gigantic copper alembic, which was connected to another, smaller alembic, beneath which a cast-iron compartment, open on top, served as a boiler. The little alembic, when filled with water and heated by the fire below, produced, in keeping with Papin's astonishing discovery, the pressure needed to drive the cold water held in the larger alembic forcefully outward. Hitched to the big cart was a smaller one that carried firewood and two ladders that could be coupled together. The whole thing was drawn by four horses; a team of six volunteer firefighters would take up standing positions on either side of the large cart. During training sessions and rehearsals, the machine had always produced good results. Arriving at the top of the street that sliced through the former Arab quarter now inhabited by miners and zolfatari , Fridolin Hoffer took a deep breath and sounded a shrill blast on his trumpet. He walked all the way down the long street, his broad barrel chest sore from the force with which he repeatedly blew into the trumpet. When he reached the end, he did an abrupt about-face and began to walk back up the street, resuming his blowing. The effects of his midnight horn blowing were immediate. The men of his team, forewarned of the meaning of an impromptu nighttime reveille to the blasts of a trumpet, started dressing in haste after reassuring their trembling wives and bawling children. Then one of them ran to the storehouse where the machine was kept while the coachman took care of attaching the horses, and a third and a fourth lit the fire under the small alembic. The other inhabitants of the populous neighborhood, unaware of anything but duly terrorized by the blasts of the trumpet, which sounded like the heralds of the Last Judgment, barricaded themselves as best they could behind doors and windows in a tumult of shouts, cries, yells, sobs, prayers, ejaculations, and curses. Suddenly awakened, Signora Nunziata Lo Monaco, ninety-three years old, became immediately convinced that the riots of '48 had returned and panicked, froze, and fell backwards as stiff as a broomstick relegated to its dusty corner. Her family found her dead the following morning and laid the blame on her heart and her age, and certainly not on the German's ultrahigh C. The team of firefighters, meanwhile, having completed their preparations, gathered closely around the engineer. They were nervous and excited about the great opportunity before them. The engineer looked them in the eye one by one, then raised an arm and gave the signal to start. In a flash they climbed aboard and headed off to Vigàta at a gallop. Every few minutes Hoffer gave a blast of the trumpet slung over his shoulder, perhaps to warn any rabbits or dogs that might find themselves in his path, since there certainly were no people about at that hour on a night of such dreadful weather. For Gerd, too, who'd been left alone at home, it was a strange night. Hearing his father leave, he got up out of bed, went and locked the front door, and lit all the lamps in the house, one after the other, until he was in a sea of light. Then he sat down in front of the mirror in his mother's bedroom. (The engineer and his wife slept in separate rooms, which was the biggest scandal in town and considered scarcely Christian, but in any case nobody really knew what religion the German and his wife belonged to.) He took off his nightshirt and, sitting there naked, began staring at himself. Then he went into his father's study, grabbed a ruler from the desktop, and returned to the mirror, which was a full-length glass. Taking in hand the thing between his legs (dick? peter? cock? peepee?), he held it along the ruler. Repeating the action several times, he remained unsatisfied with the measurement, despite having pulled on the skin so hard that it hurt. He laid down the ruler and, discouraged, went back to bed. Closing his eyes, he began to address a long and detailed prayer to God, asking Him, by apposite miracle, to make his thing like that of his classmate Sarino Guastella, who was as tall as he, weighed the same as he, but was inexplicably four times longer and thicker down there than he was. When they got to the Piano della Lanterna, below which lay the town of Vigàta, the engineer and his men realized, to their consternation, that the fire was no joking matter. There were at least two large buildings in flames. As they stood there watching, and the engineer contemplated which side of the hill they should descend with their machine in order to attack the flames most quickly, they saw, by the dancing light of the blaze, a man walking as if lost in thought, though swaying from time to time. His clothes were burnt and his hair stood straight up, either from fear or by choice of style, it wasn't clear which. He was holding his hands over his head, as if in surrender. They stopped him, having had to call to him twice, as the man seemed not to have heard them. "Vat is happenink?" asked the engineer. "Where?" the man asked back in a polite voice. "Vat you mean, vere? In Figata, vat is happenink?" "In Vigàta?" "Yes," they all said in a sort of chorus. "There seems to be a fire," said the man, looking down at the town as if to confirm. "But how come it happent? You know?" The man lowered his arms, put them behind his back, and looked down at his shoes. "You don't know?" he asked. "No, ve don't know." "I see. Apparently the soprano, at a certain point, hit a wrong note." Having said this, the man resumed walking, putting his hands again over his head. "What the hell is the soprano?" asked Tano Alletto, the coachman. "She's a voman who sinks," Hoffer explained, rousing himself from his astonishment. A spectre is haunting the musicians of Europe "A spectre is haunting the musicians of Europe!" Cavaliere Mistretta declared in a loud voice, slamming his hand down hard on the table. It was clear to all present that by "musicians" he meant musical composers. The cavaliere dealt in fava beans and was not very fond of reading, but occasionally, when speaking, he liked to indulge in apocalyptic imagery. The yell and the crash made the members of the Family and Progress Social Club of Vigàta, already nervous after more than three hours of intense discussion, jump in their seats. Giosuè Zito, the veteran agronomist, had a very different reaction. Having dozed off some fifteen minutes earlier because he'd been up all night with a terrible toothache, he woke with a start after hearing, in his half sleep, only the word "spectre," then eased himself nimbly out of his chair, knelt on the ground, made the sign of the cross, and started reciting the Credo. Everyone in town knew that three years earlier, when asleep in his country house, the agronomist had been scared out of his wits by a ghost, a spectre that had chased him from room to room amidst a great racket of chains and harrowing laments straight out of hell. After finishing his prayer, Giosuè Zito stood up, still pale as a corpse, turned towards the cavaliere, and said in a trembling voice: "Don't you ever dare make any mention, Godless man that you are, of spectres or ghosts in my presence! Is that clear, you Calabrian mule? I know how terrifying a ghost can be!" "You, my friend, don't know a bloody thing." "How dare you say that?" "I say it because I can," said Cavaliere Mistretta, annoyed. "Explain yourself." "Every last person in town knows that on that famous night, which you've been endlessly telling and retelling us about, boring everyone to death, on that night, I say, you were attacked not by a ghost, but by your scallywag of a brother Giacomino, who dressed himself up in a sheet because he wanted to drive you mad and cheat you out of your share of your father's inheritance." "What do you mean?" "What do I mean? I mean there was no ghost. It was your brother Giacomino monkeying around!" "But I got scared just the same. It had the very same effect on me as a real, flesh-and-blood ghost! I got a fever of a hundred and four! My skin broke out in hives! Therefore, you, out of respect, should use a different word!" "And how might I do that?" "How the hell should I know? Use your own words when you speak, not mine." "Look, I cannot and I will not use a different word. Because I thought of that word all by myself! And I can't think of another, at this precise moment!" "Begging the pardon of all present," intervened the Marchese Manfredi Coniglio della Favara, with a mincing manner and raised-pinky regard for decorum, "but would the good cavaliere kindly explain what spectre he is talking about?" Here a slight digression is in order. The proper place for the Marchese Coniglio della Favara, in terms of class and means, was, and had always been, among the members of the Circolo dei Nobili, or "Nobles' Circle," of Montelusa. However, on an unfortunate day the previous year, the statue of Saint Joseph happened to be passing under the great windows of the Circle, as it was the saint's feast day. The marchese went to one of the windows to watch the procession. As luck would have it, standing beside him was the Baron Leoluca Filò di Terassini, a rabid papist and tertiary of the Franciscan order. At that moment, for the first time in his life--having never before given the matter any thought--the marchese noticed how old Saint Joseph looked. After reflecting upon the age difference between Joseph and Mary, he came to a conclusion he had the poor judgment to express aloud: "If you ask me, it was a marriage of convenience." Now, by a twist of what we customarily call fate, the exact same thought had occurred to Baron Leoluca, plunging him promptly into a state of unfathomable anguish over the blasphemous idea that had just crossed his mind. Drenched in sweat, he grasped at once the point of the marchese's statement. "Say that again, if you have the courage." He issued his challenge with dark eyes smoldering like hot coals, twirling his right mustache with his index finger. "Gladly." "Wait. I should warn you: what you say may have consequences." "I don't give a damn about any consequences. You see, to me Saint Joseph looks decidedly too old to do it with Mary." He was unable to elaborate any further, so swiftly had the baron's slap arrived, every bit as swiftly as the kick that the marchese quite unchivalrously dealt the baron's ballocks, dropping him to the floor writhing and out of breath. The two men then challenged each other to a duel, which they fought with swords. The baron managed to inflict a superficial wound on the marchese, who meanwhile had resigned from Nobles' Circle of Montelusa. "You can't reason with those people," he said. And so he had requested admission to the Vigàta Civic Club and been enthusiastically welcomed, since, with all its members being tradesmen, schoolteachers, clerks, or doctors, no one had ever seen hide or hair of any aristocrats within those walls. His presence added lustre to the place. At the marchese's polite query, the cavaliere puffed his chest. "I'm talking about Wogner! And his divine music! And the spectre of his music, which scares all the other composers to death! And upon which all of them, sooner or later, will burn their fingers!" "I've never heard of this Wogner," said Giosuè Zito, genuinely astonished. "Because you are an ignoramus! You've got less culture than a mullet! I, for my part, have heard this music, which the Signora Gudrun Hoffer played for me on the piano. And it lifted me up to heaven! How the devil can anyone not know Wogner? Haven't you ever heard of his drama of the ghost ship, The Flying Dutchman ?" Giosuè Zito, having barely recovered from the previous slight, staggered, grabbing on to a small table to keep from falling. "Ah, so you really do want to get on my nerves! Why the hell do you keep talking about ghosts?" "Because that's what it's about, and it's a very great opera! What the hell do I care if it makes you shit your pants? The music is innovative, revolutionary! Like Tristano !" "Ho ho ho!" said the Canon Bonmartino, a scholar of patristics, who was, as usual, cheating at a game of solitaire. "And what do you mean by ho ho ho?" "Oh, nothing," said the canon with a face so seraphic one could almost see two cherubs fluttering around his head. "It only means that Tristano , in Italian, means 'sad anus,' ano triste . And with a title like that, I can only imagine how beautiful the opera must be." "Then you don't understand a blasted thing about Wogner." "In any case the name is Wagner, W-A-G-N-E-R, and you pronounce the W like a V: vahg-ner . He's German, my friend, not English or 'Mercan. And, with all due respect to Signor Zito's mental health, he really is a ghost, this Wagner of yours. In fact, he died before he was even born. He's an abortion. His music is first-class shit, melodic diarrhea, all farts and caca. Stuff for the latrine. People who make serious music can't even manage to play it, believe me." "Could I get a word in?" asked Antonio Cozzo, a secondary-school headmaster, from an armchair where he'd been reading the newspaper without a peep. "By all means," said Bonmartino. "Not to you," said Cozzo, "but to Cavaliere Mistretta." "I'm all ears," said Mistretta, shooting him a fighting glance. "I'd merely like to say something about Il Trovatore , the swan of Busseto's masterpiece. You know what I'm referring to?" "Absolutely." "So, Cavaliere, listen closely. First I'm going to take Abietta zingara and stick it in your right ear, then Tacea la notte placida and fit it snugly into your left, so you can no longer even hear your beloved Wogner, as you call him. Then I'm going to grab Chi del gitano and shove it deep into your left nostril, then Stride la vampa and put it into the right hole, so you can't even breathe. Finally, I'll make a fine bundle of Il balen del tuo sorriso , Di quella pira , and the Miserere , and shove the whole lot straight up your asshole, which, I am told, is fairly spacious." Time, at the club, stood still. Then the chair next to the one in which Cavaliere Mistretta was sitting took flight and soared across the room towards the head of Headmaster Cozzo, who, expecting this sort of reaction, promptly stood up and sidestepped it as his right hand reached behind to the back pocket of his trousers where he kept his weapon, a Smith & Wesson five-shooter. But nobody present got alarmed. They all knew that Cozzo's gesture was a habit, a tic he repeated as many as three times a day in moments of heated discussion or rows. And it was likewise certain that never in a million years would Cozzo pull out his revolver to shoot at any living creature, human or animal. "Come now, gentlemen!" said Commendator Restuccia, a man of influence and few words, whom it was dangerous to contradict. "Shall we stop this foolishness?" "It was he who provoked me!" said the cavaliere, trying to excuse himself as if he were still in grade school. The commendatore, however, clearly annoyed, looked severely at the contending parties and said, in an unwavering voice: "I said 'enough,' and that means 'enough.'" The two men promptly pulled themselves together. Headmaster Cozzo picked up the chair that had grazed him, and Cavaliere Mistretta smoothed out his jacket. "I want you to shake hands," the commendatore ordered them, and it would surely have been deadly not to obey. So they did, without looking each other in the eye, just as Tano, the waiter, was entering the room with a tray full of coffee, sesame seed biscuits, cannoli, lemon ices, jasmine sherbet, and almond-and-anise-flavored drinks. Tano began to distribute the refreshments according to the orders. Thus there was a moment of silence, and everyone present was able to hear Don Totò Prestia sing, just under his breath, Una furtiva lacrima . In the silence, as they all ate and drank, they fell under the spell of Don Totò's voice, which had them blubbering like young calves with their throats slit. At the end, after the applause, Don Cosimo Montalbano, as if to return Totò the favor, replied in his own melodious voice by singing Una voce poco fa . "Well, there certainly is some beautiful music around!" the Wogner supporter conceded to his adversaries, sighing. "What are you trying to do, convert us?" Canon Bonmartino asked. "Just know that I won't give you my blessing. To me you will always remain a heretic, and you will go to hell when you die." "Care to tell me just what sort of bloody priest you are?" Cavaliere Mistretta asked testily. "Easy, gentlemen, easy," said the commendatore, and in the silence one didn't hear even the flies. "On the other hand, Cavaliere, you're right," the canon continued. "There is plenty of beautiful music around. And yet we get the music of this Luigi Ricci, whom we know nothing about, shoved down our throats willy-nilly, simply because the authorities say so! It's sheer madness! We're supposed to let our ears suffer simply because the prefect orders it!" The patristics scholar was so indignant that he threw down the cards of a game of solitaire that, by dint of cheating, he was actually about to win. "You know what, gentlemen?" intervened Dr. Gammacurta, the physician. "Apparently this Ricci who wrote The Brewer of Preston has composed an opera that is a patent rehash of a work by Mozart." At the sound of that name they all recoiled in horror. Merely mentioning the name of Mozart, inexplicably despised by Sicilians, was like uttering a curse or a blasphemy. In Vigàta, the only person to defend his music--which in everyone's opinion tasted neither of fish nor fowl--was Don Ciccio Adornato, the carpenter, but apparently he did so for personal reasons of his own which he was loath to discuss. "Mozart?!" they all said at once. But although they all spoke at the same time, they were not a chorus. Some said the name with disdain, some with pain, some in shock, some in astonishment, some in resignation. "Yes, indeed, Mozart. I was told by someone who knows a thing or two. Apparently, about thirty-five years ago, at La Scala in Milan, this blockhead Luigi Ricci staged an opera called The Marriage of Figaro , which was an exact replica of a work by Mozart of the same title. And when it was over, the Milanese shat all over him. So this Ricci started crying and in tears went to seek consolation in the arms of Rossini, who, God knows why, was his friend. Rossini did what he was supposed to do and cheered him up, but he also let it be known to one and all that Ricci got what he had coming to him." "And we're supposed to inaugurate our new Vigàta theatre with an opera by this mediocrity just because our distinguished prefect is besotted with him?" asked Headmaster Cozzo, menacingly touching the back pocket in which he kept his revolver. "Oh Jesus, blessed Jesus," said the canon. "Mozart alone is a funeral, so we can well imagine what a bad copy of a bad original is like! What on earth was the prefect thinking?" Since no one could answer this question, a thoughtful silence ensued. The first to break it was Giosuè Zito, who began to sing, very softly, so he wouldn't be heard in the street below: "Ah, non credea mirarti . . ." The Marchese Coniglio della Favara then followed: "Qui la voce sua soave . . ." And Commendator Restuccia, in a basso profondo, cut in: "Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni . . ." At this point Canon Bonmartino got up from his chair, ran over to the windows, and drew the curtains to make the room dark, while Headmaster Cozzo lit a lamp. The men then gathered in a semicircle around the light. And Dr. Gammacurta, in a baritone voice, intoned: "Suoni la tromba e intrepido . . ." The first to join him, as if written into the score, was the commendatore. One by one, all the others followed. Standing round, hands linked as in a chain, looking one another in the eye, they instinctively lowered the volume of their song. They were conspirators. They had become so at that very moment, in the name of Vincenzo Bellini. The Brewer of Preston , the opera by Luigi Ricci imposed on them by the prefect of Montelusa, would never play. Would he try to raise the mosquito net? Would he try to raise the mosquito net? the widow Concetta Lo Russo, née Riguccio, asked herself with trepidation, hidden behind the gauzy tarlantana , which in summer was spread around and over the bed to protect her from gnats, mosquitoes, pappataci , and horseflies. At that moment the netting, with its light, veil-like mass, looked like a ghost hanging from a nail. The widow's generous bust was in the throes of a force-ten storm, with the portside tit drifting leeward to north-northwest, while the starboard one strayed in a south-southeasterly direction. The wife of a sailor who had drowned in the waters off Gibraltar, she was unable to think in any other terms than the nautical ones her husband had taught her after she married him at age fifteen only to don the widow's weeds at age twenty. Good Lord, what pandemonium! What a night! What rough seas! Because of what had been arranged and was about to happen, her blood was already in motion, now receding and turning her pale, now rising up and spilling over the deck, turning her not so much red as purple. And, to top it all off, earlier that night she had listened in terror to loud cries coming from the new theatre that had been built opposite her building, then heard the blast of a trumpet, followed by a mad rush of people and horses, and a few gunshots to boot. At that point she had become convinced that, with all the mayhem--whose cause escaped her-- he would not dare come that night, and thus she could set her heart, and another part of her body, at rest. Resigned, she had undressed and gone to bed. Then, just as she was dozing off, she had heard a soft sound on the roof, then his slow, cautious steps over the tiles, followed by the muffled thud of his leap from the roof to her balcony, which she had left half open as agreed. Yet when she realized he had kept his word and in a few moments would enter her room, she felt overcome with shame. She couldn't remain lying on the bed half naked like some cheap whore, in her nightgown with nothing underneath. So she had bolted out of bed and hidden behind the great swath of tarlantana . Excerpted from The Brewer of Preston by Andrea Camilleri All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.