“In the middle of the ravine the path narrowed even more. The rays of a newborn sun caressed the landscape, drawing yellow ocher streaks on the imposing rock faces. Although the sea could now be seen, the strong mistral wind did not allow us to smell it, nor the noise of the breakers. The beach was now before them; this time it was Bertone chasing after the sergeant. They stopped with a start, planted on the ground like two javelins after a long trajectory. And they cursed the dawn, which had deceived them: it was the apocalypse“.
The island of Lampedusa is the scenario where the investigations of the Carabinieri marshal Christopher Bertone unfold, arrived in the Sicilian channel for a three-month internship and then remained in force at the border station. A disturbing yellow emerges from a shipwreck of a migrant boat in Cala Pulcino, thanks to the intuition of the non-commissioned officer who does not resign himself to the daily tragedy. The shipwreck was in fact caused, a suicide that turns out to be a murder and the testimonies of the migrants bring out the contours of a supernatural figure. “Lampedusa, the devil’s island”, Scatole Parlanti, 136 pages, €14, is the first work by Fabrizio Prelate, who served right on the island. A harsh and wild Lampedusa, far from holiday clichés, is a prelude to the enthralling dramas that unfold as you continue reading. Prelate, with a dry style, sometimes poetic and with the at times deliberately technical language of the military, leads us to discover a reality that we too often see from afar and we too sink into the icy and foamy sea of December, in an irrepressible dichotomy of salvation and death. Marshal Bertone, attracted by a feeling of love – hate towards the pelagic island, has to face a whole series of vicissitudes and difficulties to reach the truth, breaking codes that cannot be proposed in emergency situations and clashing with superiors and colleagues, even finding unexpected support and human and professional qualities.
How did the idea for this novel come about? “From my direct experience with the island of Lampedusa, combined with my passion for yellow-tinted Sicilian literature – with an eye towards the social. My points of reference are Sciascia and Camilleri, without neglecting the current principles of detective fiction (and not only) De Giovanni, Carofiglio, Javier Cercas and others; let’s not talk about Simenon and Doyle, a whole page would not be enough to list them all”.
Do you recognize yourself in Christopher Bertone’s character? “Many ask me, because of the role I played on the island. Marshal Bertone is eccentric, charismatic, nonconformist. He emerged from the depths of my subconscious, perhaps because he portrays my hidden side, the most authentic one ”.
Your relationship with Lampedusa: “Lampedusa is a land that I loved and hated in equal measure. Anyone who has lived in Lampedusa (not just as a tourist) can understand my twofold feeling: a rock abandoned by the institutions, circumvented by the media, abused by illegal practices and by environmental and electromagnetic pollution, at the center of the trafficking of migrants and other forms of illegality. Then there are the sunsets, the crystal clear sea, but above all there are the honest people. Those who warm up the island make it special, welcoming and human”.
Will we still be able to read Marshal Bertone in a new case? “Absolutely yes. The project is to create a series (including television) set on the island, which enhances the beauty of the area and makes us reflect on the strong contradictions that pervade it. Marshal Bertone, in spite of him, will have to stay on Lampedusa for some time. The next novel is ready and the third is already in the works. I have also started a project with schools, so that the stories are the starting point for constructive dialogues with students on important social issues that concern everyone closely. Anyone interested can contact me directly: email@example.com, fb fabrizio_prelato, instagram: fabrizio_prelato. The adventure has already begun”.
A crime thriller that is like a slap to our consciences, showing us beyond, in total involvement among the actors of this contemporary story: migrants, smugglers, law enforcement, islanders, doctors and Lampedusa, place where nature can be both mother and stepmother and also a character in the novel.