Norman Lewis writes of Sicily: "[T]his is a Mediterranean island where the majority of public happenings are seen in one way or another to be bizarre." No question, it's a weird place. The book is an overview of Sicily's peculiarities, with special emphasis on how and why the Mafia ("the Honoured Society") was able to flourish there. Much of the Mafia's success was directly related to the extreme poverty of most of the island's inhabitants. Lewis' subtle wit is conspicuously missing from this selection, hence my removal of one star. I have no other complaints. The book was thoroughly fascinating and informative. Although apparently unconfirmed, I found this tidbit from page 62 particularly interesting:"An investigator into the origins of the word mafia was of the opinion that it dates back to the Norman conquest of the island and is derived from ma fia--the 'place of refuge' of Arab peasants of the times, when they were rounded up for slavery on the invaders' new estates."