This is only a small change of pace from de Giovanni’s Ricciardi series. It is set in contemporary Naples and features a talented police inspector who has been ostracized by the police, nationwide, because of unfounded accusations of being on the mafia payroll. He is relegated to a desk job, with no duties, where he sits playing computer poker - a kind of purgatory, but one that he accepts with resignation. His wife and daughter have left him because of the corruption allegation, so he is alone in Naples, away from his home in Sicily, with nothing to occupy his time. He volunteers to take night shifts, just to fill his time. And one night he is called to the scene of a murder, and sees and understands details that others miss. And sees that the investigators’ theory of the crime is almost certainly wrong. So in short order he is brought into the case by the (beautiful, talented, and driven) prosecutor.
Once again we are given a book that is lyrical, nearly poetic, despite the gruesome subject matter. The poetry is that of someone driven to madness, but through it we are made to see and to some extent understand that madness, and even to have some sympathy - but not too much, because the crimes are horrible to contemplate.
De Giovannni does not like Naples one little bit. He sees it as a city full of people hostile or indifferent to their fellow Napolitanos; as crowded, polluted, and harsh. He seems to take it all personally. But this view of Naples is essential to the story, in that the murderer uses the hostility of the city as camouflage, enabling him to be essentially invisible as he stalks his victims.
This is not pleasant bedtime reading - no happy endings, no satisfied sense of justice, and only a glimmer of hope that the inspector may be able to emerge from his enforced isolation. But it is a novel that draws you in and, by the first third of the book, is pretty hard to put down.