The septuagenarian duke turned novelist, Alberto Pirajno, advances from his -Risorgimento times of Ippolita to modern times and the mafia of Sicily. Mara Lumera, the daughter of a head mafiosi, falls in love with an impetuous young hood, Puddu, and marries him, to her father's displeasure. When Puddu reveals his unsavoury activities to her, Mara loves him all the more. He becomes a head mafiosi, with Mara's hard-as-nails intuition guiding him and, when he is murdered in his car, Mara's song is one of vengeance, through the agency of her adopted son, Brasi. Mara assumes command of Puddu's mob, saying that she is Puddu and no longer Mara. A few years pass, she locates the killer and Brasi guns him down. More years pass during which she amasses several millions as a dope smuggler and gains much property. Brasi, meanwhile, goes to Germany for his education and becomes engaged to a very rich German girl. Mara finally realizes that the man Brasi killed was hired to do it by her partner, l'Addarmisciuto (""One Sleeps""), a pervert, and she strangles him to death with her bare hands. Then she liquidates all her property, sends the money to a Swiss bank for Brasi, and enters a nunnery. The story is told skilfully, with the Sicilian climate always present; time passes, one generation supplants another; and there are some funny references to U.S. mafiosi deported back to Sicily.