On 1 January 1880, a stranger steps from the ferry onto the harbour in the small Sicilian town of Vigata. The locals are curious and inquisitive. It is Fofo, son of a famous local farmer who was killed, returned after many years to open a pharmacy, which proves so popular he is soon accepted as a person of stature.
At the palazzo, the family of the local marquis, Don Filippo, is cursed by tragedy: first his father and then his son die, and his poor wife is driven mad. The marquis seeks solace in the arms of a farmer’s wife, leaving his poor, beautiful daughter, ‘Ntonto, to mourn alone.
Fofo, with his medical repute, is drawn into the family as adviser and friend, but can he offer any solutions to the family’s misfortunes, or will death return to haunt the nobility of Vigata once more?
Andrea Camilleri, best known for his Inspector Montalbano novels, has written a whimsical little tale of tragi-comedy and small-town Sicilian life. The historical setting is largely incidental as it could easily be transposed to any period, but the story is enjoyable enough with sufficient laughs and mystery to bustle the reader along.