This is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a while, with several laugh out loud scenes, and plenty of social and political satire. The chapters are arranged haphazardly, and Camilleri helpfully suggests in the final chapter (“Chapter I”) that the reader should feel free to rearrange them according to taste. I expect this was a very hard book to translate owing to Camilleri’s apparently liberal use of dialect and puns, but Sartarelli does his usual excellent job.
The novel is set in Vigàta shortly after the unification of Italy, and the local population is seething with resentment at the northerners who have been placed in positions of local power, and most especially the Florentine Bortuzzi who has been appointed prefect of Montelusa province, and who is in league with a local mafioso. Bortuzzi’s insistence that the local theater in Vigàta be inaugurated with an obscure opera of his choosing leads to chaos and open rebellion.