A poignant coming of age story about the loss of innocence of a rural Italian boy.
The tale is told with enough balance as to be emotionally and intellectually engaging without being overly sentimental.
The style comes across as so effortless and the plot is so well handled, that one almost feels as if this could very well really have happened, which makes the chilling and ironic conclusion feel even more shocking and resonant.
..and since truth is stranger than fiction, who knows, perhaps it did happen; and in a certain sense, it did. The novel is apparently partly based on real-life historical events that took place in 1970's Italy.
Although the events that take place is the stuff of crime fiction and thrillers, it's given a fresh 'take' by being told from the point-of-view of the young protagonist who finds himself initially 'outside' the events that eventually rob him of his innocence and introduce him into the harsh world of adult reality.
What makes it really stand out from your general run-of-the-mill thriller though, is the insight that Mr Ammaniti shows into the psychology and souls of the characters he brings to life in this deftly-told novel.
Ammaniti poignantly brings to life the mind of an innocent child through the protagonist's initial interpretations of events; and it is a stomach-churning and heart-wrenching process to travel with young Michele into the realization of what is actually going on.