This is one of the better recent Montalbano novels: not quite as good as the early books in the series, but much better than The Dance of the Seagull or Treasure Hunt.
The novel begins with a vivid dream sequence fraught with symbolism and portent (Catarella speaking Latin, a coffin in an empty field containing the ghostly spirit of the commissioner). As in other such sequences, the dream is played out, with variations, as the story unfolds. The story consists of three plot lines: the young wife of an older wealthy merchant reports that she has been robbed; an illegal arms cache is (almost) discovered; and Montalbano falls hard for a beautiful art gallery owner named Marian who is drawn into a sketchy-sounding art deal. Augello is called on to exercise his romantic gifts with a friend of the young wife; Fazio does his usual infuriatingly efficient job investigating the details of each case; Catarella manages to mangle every name that comes his way and to invent his own grammar; and Montalbano solves the cases through inspiration and insight, but can’t get any insight into his own personal life.
The love affair with Marian takes some suspension of disbelief: they meet each other three times, sleep together, and suddenly they are both passionately in love and willing to give all for each other. But it turns out that the ending of the novel doesn’t work otherwise, and the implausibility of this sudden passion is not so jarring as to reduce the enjoyment of the story.
One of the things I look forward to in this series is the food. I can’t complain this time, but I don’t think there was anything mentioned that hasn’t appeared in several of the previous novels.
In all, Camilleri gives us a story that is on par with the early novels, but a Montalbano from whom most of the sharp edges have been knocked off. It’s a good read.