Recently widowed Poldi moves to Sicily in order to quietly drink herself to death with a sea view. But fate intervenes. When she finds the corpse of a young man on the beach, his face blown off with a sawn-off shotgun, she becomes a potential suspect in his murder case. Poldi soon falls for the gorgeous Commissario Montana who has been assigned to lead the case and, after some initial misunderstandings, they form an investigative – and romantic – partnership.
The delightful detail of this romance, and the extreme awkwardness of its retelling to her mortified nephew, produce some of the novel’s many high points, and exemplify the work’s warmth and wit. Sicily is a vivid backdrop, an island of people obsessed with food, family and friendship.
They talk passionately about which remote village produces the best olives, pistachio ice-cream, oyster mushrooms, mandarins and marzipan, about which restaurant serves the best pasta al nero di sepia or canolli a la crema di ricotta. And never a direct reference to the mafia (“…an invention of those fascists in the North”), even when discussing corruption and murders committed with sawn-off shotguns.