The Day of the Owl

The Day of the Owl

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The Day of the Owl (Italian: Il giorno della civetta) is a crime novel about the Mafia by Leonardo Sciascia, finished in 1960 and published in 1961.


In a small town, early on a Saturday morning, a bus is about to leave the small square to go market in the next town nearby. A gunshot is heard and the figure running for the bus is shot twice in the back, with what is discovered as a lupara (a sawn-off shotgun that the mafia use for their killings.) The passengers and bus driver deny having seen the murderer.

A Carabinieri captain from Parma, Bellodi, gets on the case, ruffling feathers in his contemporaries and colleagues alike. Soon he discovers a link that doesn’t stop in Sicily, but goes onwards towards Rome and the Minister Mancuso and Senator Livigno.

It seems that the man shot, Salvatore Colasberna, was the owner of a small construction company. He had been warned that he should take “protection” from mafia members, but he refused. Although his company was only a very small one, the local mafia decides to make an example of him and has him killed.

Using faintly corrupt methods, Bellodi traps one man and uses the names given by a dead informer to trap another, who has money stashed away in many bank accounts that add up to more than his fallow fields would ever bring. He is attempting to take down an organization with many members involved in the police and government, and whose mere existence many Sicilians deny. He has ignored the crime passionate lead, which is often a handy excuse for mafia killings.

The death of an eyewitness leads to the collapse of the case against all three, which sees Bellodi taken off the case. The novel ends with Bellodi recounting his time in Sicily to his friends in Parma—who think that it all sounds very romantic—and thinking that he would return to Sicily even if it killed him.