Most helpful critical review
on September 24, 1999
Mystery fans will be disappointed. Dibdin writes in an artsy rather than tensely suspenseful style, yielding self-consciously amusing ironies and operatic coincidences. For example, he blatantly repeats one gory scene verbatim. The frivolous confections and literary stylings quite canceled the mysteries for me. Throughout the author is clearly "playing with" his characters (and you) in three parallel, increasingly coincident, story lines. There is some amusing word play, but if you want that then Mozart's operatic version sounds better. Dibdin's characters are more interesting than the plot, but not much. I imagine committed PC people will really hate the stereotypes, and the impolitic disparagement of Naples (a stand-in for humanity). The conclusion is too much of a rush (but with wonderful inversions of character). This is quite an amusing book, but not the involving mystery I expected.