"Is there a local mafia?" asked Bianchi.
"Mafia?" exclaimed Micciche with the same incredulity he would have displayed had he been asked whether the inhabitants of Nisima had webbed feet. "What Mafia? All nonsense!"
In the story that gives the book its title there is a moment when a traveler and a family he has ended up bunking up with en route look at the sea. They argue over the description of the colour of the water much. They disagree over what each other can see much in the way that throughout the book there is a blindness shown by some characters towards organised crime.
The Mafia hangs like a shadow over this collection of stories with tales of corruption and bitter betrayal. In the opening couple of stories the theme is set with a bunch of men duped into thinking they were being taken to America in The Long Crossing finding instead they have been on an elabrorate scam that saw them go round in circles before being dumped back near where they originally started.
The Wine-Dark Sea follows an official going to Sciliy to check up on oil reserves fully aware that he is heading into Mafia territory and is going to find it difficult and dangerous. As he tries to gather intelligence from a family he is traveling with he realises just how much danger he is in when he mentions the M word.
There are some clever tales which have a feeling almost of the detective novels set in LA with The End-Game showing just how far a woman will go to set up someone else for a crime.
The story with a Mafia boss and his underling describing what they think the word 'Mafia' means is illuminating and does have moments of humour.
But after putting the book down and sitting back in reflection what you take from this collection is an insight into a world where it was almost what was not said that was important. The influence of the mafia covers everything and those that try to deny it cannot fight back a tide of fear. But there are other moments here where the depths to which normal people will go to take you by surprise.
The real question is not who is in the mafia perhaps but who is capable of doing the crimes and being filled with the hatred of a Mafia killer? The response to that question of all puts us all under the spotlight.