Giuseppe Pontiggia is not a household word in America even decades after this book was first published and he certainly should be. With the popularity of noir mystery novels, this book should rank in the pantheon of mysteries because it is simply that good as a "giallo" book.
The story-line is not all that surprising or unique and considering the number of mysteries published, that is not meant as a disparagement. A nameless university professor's work is maligned in a literary journal in an anonymous article. The professor begins a heated to search to find out the identity of the writer and begins a downward spiral into obsession as he uncovers more about his own life and others whom he thought he knew. The frenetic activity does tend to become almost too much but this helps sustain the satiric elements of the story. At the end of the book finding out the answer to the primal question is secondary to the identities of the other facts in his life which encompass infidelity, suicide, academia's parochialism, and careerism. Remember the statement that Borges made about how mysteries become self-defeating when the solution to them is exposed. Giuseppe Pontiggia does not commit this error.
Which is why it is not really a mystery at all. It is a remarkable satire about the academic world, its pretensions, insignificancies, inbreeding, favoritism, vanity and almost a total disconnect with the "real" world. The constant references to a chess game point us what the author is really writing about, "the invisible player."
Aside from the leitmotif of chess, the novel abounds with allusions to the classical world, Latin and Greek, literary journals, contrapposed with modern day concerns such a money, love, sex, self-esteem and even furniture.
The reader will become enthralled with this complex psychological "mystery" and will discover that at the end of it, he will want to read it again and again.