Salvo Montalbano Series – Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri’s Salvo Montalbano is one of the most interesting, annoying, and engaging characters in the world of police procedurals. He is the voice of reason in the town of Vigata, in Sicily. While Vigata is not a real place, the characters who inhabit it are very real. Camilleri peoples the area with the good, the bad, and the very bad, acknowledging that the Mafia exists and corruption is endemic. But Salvo and his colleagues do their best and usually the people who are very bad get their just desserts. Salvo has his weaknesses. His off again/on again relationship with Livia, who treks from Genoa to Sicily much more often than Salvo does the reverse route, generally ends when he gets so involved in a case that he forgets she is there.  Livia absolves him of his blinkered vision because Montalbano’s saving grace is that he becomes overly involved with the survivors of the mayhem; Salvo wears his heart on his sleeve and it generally complicates his life.

The Montalbano books have evocative titles: THE SHAPE OF WATER, THE TERRA- COTTA DOG, THE VOICE OF THE VIOLIN, THE SNACK THIEF to name some.  The cover art is compelling because it isn’t.  None of the covers suggest mystery and mayhem.  The colors most often used are blue and terracotta, colors that evoke Sicily.

The author and his extraordinary translator, Stephen Sartarelli, provide moments of humor throughout the story.  The bane of Montalbano’s existence is the desk officer, Cartarella, who has never met a sentence he couldn’t maim.  Montalbano’s housekeeper keeps his refrigerator full, unless Livia is in residence.

Camilleri pokes fun at his characters and his readers.  IN AUGUST HEAT, Camilleri gives us this – “He sat outside until eleven o’clock, reading a good detective novel by two Swedish authors who were husband and wife, in which there wasn’t a page without a ferocious and justified attack on social democracy and the government. In his mind Montalbano dedicated the book to all those who did not deign to read mystery novels because, in their opinion, they were only entertaining puzzles.” (p. 113-114) Camilleri knows his audience and lets us know that while it may not be great literature, mysteries are far more than just puzzles and they are far more fun to read.

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10 Responses to Salvo Montalbano Series – Andrea Camilleri

  1. Elizabeth Masten says:

    Camilleri’s Montalbano is a man who is trying to save what is best is life from disappearing. He sees the best in people. In AUGUST HEAT we see Montalbano at his most vulnerable. The murder he is trying to solve is a cold case, the weather is very hot and he is beset by personal concerns.A case of sweat and tears, Camilleri at his best.

    • Beth says:

      Montalbano is one of the most human characters in mystery fiction. He is a man of his place but the times have left him behind. If I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be the SNACK THIEF.

    • William MIchael says:

      who plays Fazio, Catarella, Mimi, and Livia?

  2. Joe says:

    I think that I’ve read everything that he has written – at least the Montalbano series. My favorite is “The Patience of the Spider” although I think that “The Terra-Cotta Dog” would be a close second. I found your blog because I am just now writing a post on my Italophile blog “”. I’ll come back when I have some time to look for other mystery series that I might like. I know that there are some other Italians and I really like Alan Furst a lot.


    • Beth says:

      Are you familiar with David Hewson and Michael Dibdin? I haven’t read reviewed any of their books but I will soon. And, of course, there is Donna Leon. Cara Black writes a series set in Paris, Jeffrey Siger a series set in Greece, Timothy Hallinan, one set in Bangkok, Leighton Gage sets his in Brazil, Matt Beynon Rees has a wonderful series set in Palestine, and then there are the Nordics and so many more.

      Please come back soon, Joe.

  3. Filippo Levatino says:

    Inspector Montelbano is a favorite because he is so Sicilian as am I. His gestures, his love of food and beautiful women, his desire to see justice done at all cost makes him a unique and memorable character. The characters around him only expand the unique character of the Inspector. Obviously Livia, a Genovese, is powerless against her Salvo. The actor playing Montelbano is fabulous in his bringing Montelbano to life. I watch the series whenever it is on.

    • Beth says:

      Hi, Filippo –

      I have not seen the TV series but I love the books. The dialogue, especially that given to Catarella, is funny enough to make me stop reading and laugh.

      I think the titles of the books and the covers are wonderful. The covers, in primary colors, suggest the warmth and life of Sicily.

  4. shantanu says:

    I have become a recent addict to Salvo and his ways. The fling is barely a year old, and my wife introduced to to this, making me read the first book — The Terracotta Dog. I have been hooked since!
    The best thing about the Montalba series is, besides the extraordinarily dry wit, the evocative description. Camilleri is not just a good writer, but one of the best (I am, of course, talking through the translations; and the originals I presume would be much better). The closest a detective comes to this, according to me, is Feluda — a Bengali “private investigator”, as he likes to call himself, created by the late Satyajit Ray — more famous as a filmmaker.

  5. Pingback: AUTHORS A – D ( A Good Place To Start) | MURDER by TYPE

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