W. S. Di Piero, in his introduction to Leonardo Sciascia's "To Each His Own," aptly comments that Sciascia "used storytelling as in instrument for investigating and attacking the ethos of a culture-the insular, mafia-saturated culture of Sicily-which he believed to be a metaphor for the world." He did this as a political journalist, as a short story writer (notably in his fine collection, "The Wine-Dark Sea," which I also have reviewed here at Amazon) and, perhaps most effectively, as a writer of a unique type of detective story, one in which the usual investigation and solution of a crime is occluded by the lie, the secret, the collusion, and the murder that seemingly pervade Sciasica's Sicily.
In "To Each His Own," a pharmacist receives a simple, threatening and anonymous letter: "This letter is your death sentence. To avenge what you have done, you will die." The threat is apparently soon carried out, for a few days later the pharmacist and a close friend, Dr. Roscio, are found murdered. The two men had been hunting and their pack of dogs returned to the town without the men, prompting much speculation and a typically Sciascian commentary on the Sicilian code of silence:
"The return of the dogs set the whole town to disputing for days and days (as will always happen when people discuss the nature of dogs) about the order of Creation, since it is not at all fair that dogs should lack the gift of speech. No account was taken, in the creator's defense, that even had they had the gift of speech, the dogs would, in the given circumstances, have become so many mutes both with regard to the identity of the murderers and in testifying before the marshal of the carabinieri."
From this point forward, "To Each His Own" narrates the personal investigation of the crime by Professor Laurana, a sexually repressed high school teacher who lives alone with his mother in the same house he has lived in all his life. Professor Laurana undertakes the investigation not because he really cares to bring the perpetrator to justice, but "rather like the man in a living room or club who hears one of those stupid puzzles volunteered by the fools who are always eager to propose and, what is worse, to solve them, and who knows that it is a futile game and a waste of time, yet who feels obliged to solve the problem, and doggedly sets about doing so."
Professor Laurana methodically follows the clues and, along the way, provides a narrative that illuminates the corruption, the secrecy, the complicity, and the silence that make any effort to bring a criminal to justice in Sicily "a futile game and a waste of time." It is a narrative sharply critical of every institution in society-the Government, the Police, the Church, the Family-and laden with commentary and erotically charged innuendo on the relationship between men and women in a patriarchal and overtly sexist, if not misogynistic, culture. "To Each His Own" is, ultimately, a tale that ends grimly for those who seek the truth, even as the perpetrators celebrate their crimes in Sciascia's cynical Sicilian world.