The Patience of the Spider is about kidnapping. But it isn't just a female university student who is held captive. So are we, the readers.
For the most part, the novel follows the well-tried formula: Livia's unpredictability (matching Montalbano's); Catarella's imbecility; the Police Authority's antipathy towards their heroic Inspector; and finally, of course, the Inspector's preternatural sleuthing (in this novel, he knows in advance when people are on the point of death, for instance).
In other ways, however, this one is different. The opening is more leisurely - it isn't until Chapter 2 that we get to know about the main focus of the investigation. But this is a plus, because in Chapter 1 we are entertained by Salvo's razor-sharp wit. This book isn't as busy as others in the series, but remains fast-paced and engaging. (And anyway, much of the drama takes place inside the Inspector's head, as he thinks and questions aloud. For many, a more rewarding kind of 'action' than that of the Hollywood car-crash variety.)
Montalbano 8 has wonderful pace, sparkling dialogue and thoughtful, occasionally poetic, prose. Earlier reviewers may well be right about this one being easier to crack than others in the series. But any really good book is surely about more than just a plot or a mystery. Here we also have a teasing and profound dilemma: what should take precedence, state law or individual moral conscience? Not that easy to decide when you happen to be a cop. Engrossing stuff.