Mystery authors should take their own work seriously. I don’t mean they should avoid humor, but they should not mock their own creation.
If you’re going to do the post-modernist self-referential thing, go all-in or forget about it.
Sadly, nobody told Camilleri about these two rules, and nobody needed to until this book. He makes reference to the TV series about inspector Montalbano (an excellent series, by the way), making a joke about Montalbano not wanting to go to a certain town because he might run into the actor who is playing him. This was just distracting. Later, Camilleri steps out of the omniscient observer role to make reference to himself, Camilleri, and his relationship to Montalbano. Distracting, again.
The translation this time was really not up to Stephen Sartarelli’s usual high standards. It seemed rough in places (especially near the beginning), and never exhibited the brilliance of his earlier translations.
The story itself was fairly compelling - not every murder mystery features a cross-dressing gangster. And there was plenty of suspense when, early in the story, Montalbano figures out that his friend and assistant Fazio has been kidnapped and possibly murdered.
But overall this novel was a disappointment, at least by comparison to every other of the novels in this series.