Andrea Camilleri has managed the very difficult feat of delivering a wholly satisfying crime story that is also a biting commentary on politics and society in Italy and Sicily. The story carries off both with wit and grace thanks to the glorious Salvo Montalbano, a man who is utterly a professional policeman and a man with a open heart. Montalbano as vivid and forceful as the Sicilian context he works in. The countryside and the atmosphere of Sicily pervade the book, they ground it wholly and give the actions of the cast force and weight.
The action is delivered with a light touch and Montalbano is never dour or grim, he is too busy enjoying his friends and relishing his food for that. This lightness cleverly hides the chilly darkness of the plot that slowly comes into view and as Montalbano's anger develops in response to it the reader is drawn into the human scale of the brutality. This is the strength of the story, the crimes have a ordinary scale, carried out by humans who have no care for others only for greed. The victims are remembered by Montalbano and they are contrasted with the society and systems that failed them. The anger is controlled by Montalbo's professionalism. Andrea Camilleri can see and enjoy the splendor and generosity of Sicily without ever forgetting the dark veins that run close to the surface. The balance he achieves makes this outstanding book a serious pleasure.