Things are not going well for Inspector Montalbano. His long-distance relationship with Livia is on the rocks, he feels himself getting even older and he's growing tired of the violence in his job.
Then the dead body of a young woman is found in an illegal dump, with half her face missing. Her identity at first unknown; a tattoo of a sphinx moth on her left shoulder links her with three other girls bearing the same mark, all recent Russian immigrants to Italy. Victims of an underworld sex trade, these girls have been rescued from the Mafia night-club circuit by a Catholic charity organization. The problem is, the other girls can't help Montalbano with his enquiries. They are all missing.
As his investigations progresses, it seems that not everyone wants Montalbano to discover what really lies behind the organization's charitable facade. And not only does Montalbano have a case to solve, he has a demanding stomach to feed, and he must save his foundering relationship with Livia . . .