Sunday, March 22, 2015

Review: "The Day of the Owl" by Leonardo Sciascia

Leonardo Sciascia, the late Sicilian crime author, who wrote mystery stories where the mystery wasn’t so much the “what” of it all, but the “why” of it, the brutal, dehumanizing “why” that turned Sicily into a mecca of organized crime, whose influence over every aspect of life was almost mystical. While not one of his better books, at least to me, The Day of the Owl really exhibits his style perfectly, presenting a simple story in the swift format of no more than 200 pages that unfolds layers upon layers of corruption and violence, so much so that it is impossible to get past any of it in order to gain any semblance of justice of sanctity of life. The novel begins with the shooting of a seemingly innocent man, as he is about to board a crowded bus. When the police get to the crime scene, no one on the bus wants to admit that they saw who shot the man, even though someone had to have seen the murderer. They are obviously afraid of what may come if they identify him, and as one lone detective is assigned to the case, he begins to see that it wasn’t just a simple murder, but a killing that leads directly to the heart of the mafia, which people of influence claim doesn’t exist. Sciascia sometimes gets bogged down in police procedural information that detracts from the stories power, which I didn’t find in any of his work before, but he still accurately describes the feelings of fear, isolation, loneliness and worthlessness that must have been felt by the citizens of Sicily when their lives were negotiable. His stories are never happy ones, always ending cynically, maybe too much so, but even when he is not in top form, like this novel, his stories are still powerful and should be checked out.

Rating: 3/5

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