From Publishers Weekly
Tabucchi's fourth work to be translated into English functions as both a surrealistic mystery novel and a philosophical inquiry into the nature of existence. But muddy writing and a badly conceptualized story line prevents it from realizing that magical quality achieved so effortlessly by Calvino, with whom the author can be compared. Spino, a mortuary worker whose name, Tabucchi coyly admits, is an abbreviation of Spinoza, becomes intrigued when the corpse of a young man who went by the pseudonym "Carlo Nobodi" is brought into the morgue. Although he was killed in a bloody gun battle with police, it is unclear whether Carlo was part of a criminal gang or only an unlucky bystander. Spino fixates on the mystery surrounding the young man's short life and death, and determines to learn as much as he can. A series of palpable yet baffling clues--an old photograph, a jacket that belonged to Carlo's father--leads Spino figuratively and literally to the outskirts of the Italian underworld, a realm he must enter to complete his discovery, in this promising but yet ultimately frustrating work.
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