The latest from the eminent Italian author of Requiem (1994) and Pereira Declares (1996) once again explores the land and people of Portugal—this time in the form of a murder mystery whose initiating action is the discovery of a headless body near a gypsy encampment. “Special correspondent” (and self-styled literary scholar) Firmino is sent by the Lisbon scandal sheet he writes for to the town of Oporto to investigate. The result is less the solution to an only token mystery than it is a reintroduction to the culture Firmino (born in Oporto) has rejected—as embodied by a colorful host of high and low characters who function (not too blatantly) as reality instructors. The most vivid are a hardworking attorney and a genial transvestite whore. On the whole, the novel is an unlikely delight.