There’s nothing glaringly wrong with this novel (as there was with The Dance of the Seagull), but there’s also not much to recommend it. It feels like the life has gone out of this series, as if Camilleri is phoning it in. The story starts out pretty well, with a pair of elderly religious fanatics who have completely lost their minds and begin shooting at passersby under their window. But from there the novel goes downhill pretty quickly. Montalbano begins receiving anonymous letters leading him on a ‘treasure hunt’, and at the same time he’s introduced by his friend Ingrid to a young man who wants to study Montalbano’s methods. Hmmm, that’s odd. Then there’s the usual scenes where Montalbano dodges a meeting with his boss, and some of the not so very friendly banter with the pathologist. And of course the expected misunderstanding with Livia owing to a female guest picking up his phone when it rings.
All that wouldn’t be so bad if there were at least one new aspect of Montalbano’s character revealed in this novel; because that, after all, is what this series has been about. But all we see is a somewhat dreary continuation of the earlier themes: he’s getting old and not liking it; he’s ambivalent about his relationship with Livia; he wonders why he keeps on, but knows that solving crimes is the thing that keeps him going.
Even the food in this book is not up to par - it’s basically leftovers from previous episodes.
In all, a disappointment.