Inspector Salvo Montalbano loves food, particularly pasta and seafood, and living in Sicily, he doesn’t have to go far to find it. Plus, his housekeeper Adelina is an excellent cook. I always feel like I have gained ten pounds when I read one of the books in this series. I was lucky enough to have visited Florence and Siena and loved the pizza and gelato, but now I want to visit Sicily and eat mussels, sole, shrimp, sea urchins, clams, calamari, olives, anchovies, cheeses, and breads, the pastas, just not the octopus.
So far, according to Wikipedia, fourteen books have been translated by Stephen Sartarelli from the Italian, Sicilian, and Sicilianized Italian in which Camilleri wrote them. Here’s hoping there are more waiting to be translated; I don’t have time to learn all those languages. Sartarelli is thoughtful enough to include explanations of Italian and Sicilian references in the text which Americans otherwise might not understand.
The series has been so popular in Italy that the Montalbano novels have been made into an Italian TV series. Would someone please start a petition to PBS or some cable station to bring that series over here?
When Salvo is eating, he is solving murders. He can find a means to balance the elements of a sinister Sicilian world, a world of shady connections and favors owed and owing, while still keeping his conscience. He has occasional tussles with upper-management, but always finds a way to outwit them. His girlfriend, the temperamental Livia, who lives in another city, has its ups and downs, but he is always faithful, in his way.
I can’t begin to name my favorite book in this series; each seems to be better than the last and, of course, each builds on what happened in the last book. This isn’t a noir series, and it isn’t a cozy series. What it is is a picture of another culture and an altogether individual inspector. And they are very funny (and mouth-watering).