Commissario Bordelli is the sleepiest detective ever created. Insomnia every night, and barely able to keep his eyes open long enough to make an arrest. Sleepy and melancholy. He’s about fifty, unmarried, long in search of the perfect woman, and now knowing that it’s probably too late. He’s easily smitten. He’s disturbed by dreams of the past - a lost love and the sight and memory of his friends blown up in WWII.
The novel is set in a hot muggy August in 1963 in Florence. The town is mostly deserted, sweltering, humid. A new officer has been assigned to the Florence questura, and turns out to be the son of a man whose life Bordelli saved during the war. Bordelli takes him under his wing as a protege and assistant. The kid is bright and energetic, and his presence seems to help Bordelli keep his focus.
The murder victim in this story is an elderly woman, found dead in her bed apparently of an asthma attack. But there are signs that it wasn’t an accidental death, and so Bordelli launches an investigation. The likely suspects all have alibis, but Bordelli presses on.
In the course of his investigation, Bordelli is told by Dante, the eccentric brother of the murder victim, that DDT is poisonous (who knew?), and so, unlike all his neighbors, he is not wafting DDT through his bedroom, and as a consequence has no defenses against the swarms of mosquitoes.
He arrives at the truth in the end, and along the way we meet an interesting cast of characters, mostly petty criminals that Bordelli has befriended. In all, a good read.