While swimming along the Sicilian shore, Inspector Montalbano discovers a corpse. His pursuit of the cause of death intersects with the inquiry into a hit-and-run accident that claimed the life of a young boy who may have been victimized by human traffickers.
The buying and selling of immigrant children, for slave labor, sex, and as a source of illegal organ transplants, is part of the evil underside of the opening of Europe's borders. That, combined with frustration with his department's repressive handling of security for the G-8 summit in Genoa and the corruption among his superiors and the politicians behind them, makes setting anything right seem like an exercise in futility.
Montalbano alternates between despair and steely resolve. When he realizes that he may have inadvertently aided the boy's victimizers, his internal turmoil intensifies.