Imagine three children, ages 2, 4, and 5 being abandoned in a train station in Barcelona in 1984. They do not know what their surname is. They do not know the names of their parents. Add a mafia boss, a hit man, and a soothsayer, and you have the makings of a mystery that spanned four decades. At The Guardian, Giles Tremlett attempts to do the math.

When I visited Ramón in a small penthouse apartment in Barcelona, he recalled once finding a pistol in a house where they were staying. He and Ricard started playing with it on an outdoor staircase. Ramón pointed the pistol at his brother, then turned away and pulled the trigger. The gun recoiled as he fired a real bullet. He explained with photographic exactitude the shape of the staircase, the white outside wall and a garden below. “My father was furious,” he told me.

He remembers, too, his father driving them to a beachside restaurant and leaving the engine running while he went inside. They waited a few minutes before he reappeared, bleeding from a badly beaten face. “I recall the tension in the car as we drove off,” Ramón said. Ricard’s memories are fewer, but also vivid: his father parking the black Porsche above a vertiginous cliff; a wood-lined Paris apartment with a view of the Eiffel Tower; visiting his father in a hospital room. They seemed like scenes from a French noir gangster movie.