Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series
04 March 2016
By Pan Macmillan
The Inspector Montalbano series has been translated into thirty-two languages and was adapted for Italian television, screened on BBC4, begins with The Shape of Water.
‘Montalbano’s colleagues, chance encounters, Sicilian mores, even the contents of his fridge are described with the wit and gusto that make this narrator the best company in crime fiction today.’ Guardian
The goats of Vigàta once grazed on the trash-strewn site still known as the Pasture. Now local enterprise of a different sort flourishes: drug dealers and prostitutes of every flavour. But their discreet trade is upset when two employees of the Splendour Refuse Collection Company discover the body of engineer Silvio Luparello, one of the local movers and shakers, apparently deceased in flagrante at the Pasture.
The coroner's verdict is death from natural causes. But Inspector Salvo Montalbano, as honest as he is streetwise and as scathing to fools and villains as he is compassionate to their victims, is not ready to close the case – even though he's being pressured by Vigàta's police chief, judge, and bishop.
Start reading The Shape of Water
The Terracotta Dog, the second book in Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series, opens with a mysterious tête-à-tête with a Mafioso, some inexplicably abandoned loot from a supermarket heist, and some dying words that lead Inspector Montalbano to a secret grotto in a mountain cave where two young lovers dead fifty years and still embracing are watched over by a life-size terracotta dog. Montalbano's passion to solve this old crime takes him, heedless of personal danger, on a journey through the island's past and into a family's dark heart amid the horrors of World War II.
Start reading The Terracotta Dog
When an elderly man is stabbed to death in an elevator and a crewman on an Italian fishing trawler is machine-gunned by a Tunisian patrol boat off Sicily's coast, only Inspector Montalbano suspects a link between the two incidents.
His investigation leads to the beautiful Karima, an impoverished house cleaner and sometime prostitute, whose young son steals other school children's mid-morning snacks. But Karima disappears, and the young snack thief's life – as well as Montalbano's – is endangered when the inspector exposes a viper's nest of government corruption and international intrigue.
Start reading The Snack Thief
Montalbano's gruesome discovery of a naked young woman suffocated in her bed immediately sets him on a search for her killer. Among the suspects are her aging husband, a famous doctor; a shy admirer, now disappeared; an antiques-dealing lover from Bologna; and the victim's friend Anna, whose charms Montalbano cannot help but appreciate. But it is a mysterious, reclusive violinist who holds the key to this murder...
Start reading The Voice of the Violin
A young Don Juan is found murdered in front of his apartment building early one morning, and an elderly couple is reported missing after an excursion to the ancient site of Tindari – two seemingly unrelated cases for Inspector Montalbano to solve amid the daily complications of life at Vigàta police headquarters.
But when Montalbano discovers that the couple and the murdered young man lived in the same building, his investigation stumbles onto Sicily's brutal 'New Mafia', which leads him down a path more evil and more far-reaching than any he has been down before.
Start reading Excursion to Tindari
When an angry octogenarian holds a terrified and lovelorn secretary at gunpoint, Inspector Montalbano is reluctantly drawn into the case. The secretary's boss, a financial advisor, has vanished along with several billion lire entrusted to him by the good citizens of Vigàta. Also missing is the advisor's young colleague, whose uncle just happens to be building a house on the site of Inspector Montalbano's very favourite olive tree...
Start reading The Scent of the Night
Increasingly disillusioned with his government and the world in general, Inspector Montalbano is considering retirement. He is starting to feel his age, and even his favourite restaurant has closed. But when he bumps into a dead body during a bracing swim, his detective instincts are aroused once more. Particularly when the most likely identity of the victim is a man already long buried...
Start reading Rounding the Mark
Chief Inspector Montalbano is on enforced sick leave. But when a local girl goes mysteriously missing, the whole community takes an interest in the case. Why are the kidnappers so sure that the girl's impoverished father and dying mother will be able to find a fortune? The ever-inquisitive Montalbano steps in, to get to the heart of the matter in his own inimitable style.
Start reading The Patience of the Spider
As he gets older, Inspector Montalbano is plagued by existential questions. But he doesn't have much time to wax philosophical before the gruesome murder of a man - shot in the face at point-blank range with his pants down - commands his attention. Add two evasive, beautiful women as prime suspects, dirty cocaine, dead politicians, mysterious computer codes, and a series of threatening letters, and things soon get very complicated at the police headquarters in Vigàta.
Start reading The Paper Moon
The lazy, slow month of August at the height of the Sicilian summer is, Inspector Montalbano assures his girlfriend Livia as they prepare for a relaxing holiday in a villa he has found for them, far too hot for any murders to be committed. But when Livia's friends' young son goes missing, a chain of events is sparked which will certainly ruin the Chief Inspector's pleasant interlude.
A secret apartment and a grisly find in an old trunk are just the beginning, as Montalbano navigates his way though the case, as well as coping with the sweltering heat, the suspicious death of an Arab labourer and the tempting lure of a beautiful girl...
Start reading August Heat
Things are not going well for Inspector Montalbano. His long-distance relationship with Livia is on the rocks, he feels himself getting even older and he's growing tired of the violence in his job.
Then the dead body of a young woman is found in an illegal dump, with half her face missing. Her identity at first unknown; a tattoo of a sphinx moth on her left shoulder links her with three other girls bearing the same mark, all recent Russian immigrants to Italy. Victims of an underworld sex trade, these girls have been rescued from the Mafia night-club circuit by a Catholic charity organization. The problem is, the other girls can't help Montalbano with his enquiries. They are all missing.
As his investigations progresses, it seems that not everyone wants Montalbano to discover what really lies behind the organization's charitable façade. And not only does Montalbano have a case to solve, he has a demanding stomach to feed, and he must save his foundering relationship with Livia...
Start reading The Wings of the Sphinx
Inspector Montalbano rises one morning to find the carcass of a horse on the beach in front of his seaside home. But no sooner do his men arrive, than the body has mysteriously vanished, leaving only a track in the sand. Before long Rachele, a beguiling equestrian champion, turns up at police headquarters to report her horse missing. The horse had been stabled at the grounds of a certain Saverio Lo Duca, one of the richest men in Sicily. Lo Duca has lost one of his own horses too.
Montalbano, his curiosity piqued, investigates, but before long things take a more disturbing turn... But who has Montalbano upset within this strange, unfamiliar world of horse-racing? And what has the Mafia to do with it all?
Start reading The Track of Sand
While Vigàta is wracked by storms, Inspector Montalbano is called to attend the discovery of a dismembered body in a field of clay. Bearing all the marks of an execution style killing, it seems clear that this is, once again, the work of the notorious local mafia. But who is the victim? Why was the body divided into thirty pieces? And what is the significance of the Potter's Field?
Working to decipher these clues, Montalbano must also confront the strange and difficult behaviour exhibited by his old colleague Mimi, and avoid the distraction of the enchanting Dolores Alfano - who seeks the inspector's help in locating her missing husband. But like the Potter's Field itself, Montalbano is on treacherous ground and only one thing is certain - nothing is quite as it seems...
Start reading The Potter's Field
A chance encounter with a strange young woman leads Inspector Montalbano to Vigàta harbour - and into a puzzling new mystery. The crew of a mysterious yacht - the Vanna - due to dock in the area have discovered a corpse floating in the water, the dead man's face badly disfigured. It isn't long before Montalbano begins to become suspicious of the Vanna's inhabitants. Who is the yacht's owner, the glamorous and short-tempered Livia Giovannini? How has she accrued her riches? And why does she spend so much time at sea?
Meanwhile Montalbano finds himself getting into tangles with the dreaded Commissioner, the exasperating Dr Lattes and a very beautiful young woman at the harbour, with whom he becomes dangerously besotted... Can the Inspector clear his head long enough to unravel this murky mystery?
Start reading The Age of Doubt
Inspector Montalbano is awake at dawn, sitting on his porch, when his attention is caught by a seagull which falls from the sky, performing a strange dance, before lying down to die. Montalbano is perplexed by what he has witnessed and the scene hangs over him like an omen.
About to depart for a holiday with his girlfriend Livia, Montalbano makes a quick trip to the police station to tie up loose ends. But when his dear colleague Fazio is discovered missing – and it transpires that the policeman has been involved in his own secret investigations – Montalbano instead launches a desperate search for his lost friend, as time begins to run out...
Start reading The Dance of the Seagull
When a crazed elderly man and his sister begin firing bullets from their balcony down onto the Vigàta street below, Inspector Montalbano finds himself a reluctant television hero.
A few days later, when a letter arrives containing a mysterious riddle, the Inspector becomes drawn into a perplexing treasure hunt set by an anonymous challenger. As the hunt intensifies, Montalbano is relieved to be offered the assistance of Arturo Pennisi, a young man eager to witness the detective's investigative skills first hand.
Fending off meddling commissioners and his irate girlfriend, Livia, the inspector will follow the treasure hunt's clues and travel from Vigàta's teeming streets to its deserted outskirts: where an abandoned house overlooks a seemingly bottomless lake. But when a horrifying crime is committed, the game must surely be laid aside. And it isn't long before Montalbano himself will be in terrible danger...
Start reading The Treasure Hunt
When members of Vigàta's elite are targeted in a series of perfectly executed burglaries, Inspector Montalbano reluctantly takes the case. It soon becomes clear however that more links these privileged few than simply their lost possessions...
It isn't long too before Montalbano finds himself taken with one of the victims, the captivatingly beautiful young Angelica. But as the detective's attraction grows – until he can think of little else – a series of strange, anonymous letters claiming responsibility for the thefts begin to arrive...
Start reading Angelica's Smile
When Montalbano comes to the aid of his new neighbour, Liliana Lombardo, after the engine of her car is interfered with, the inspector can little imagine where this innocuous event will lead. It soon transpires that the young woman - beautiful, intelligent and rather vague about the whereabouts of her husband - is being targeted by someone with a grudge against her. But is Liliana's growing interest in Montalbano simply a product of the detective's innate charm? Or is she trying to lead him astray - and into trouble?
Meanwhile the inspector finds himself drawn into another mystery when a bomb explodes outside an empty warehouse in Vigàta. But who was the bomb intended for? And why was it left in such a peculiar place? As Montalbano and his colleagues investigate the street's residents - some of whom have suspicious mafia links - they begin to receive a barrage of false clues from an anonymous source.
As Liliana's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and leaks around the case threaten Montalbano's reputation; the sense of danger grows. The inspector soon realizes that, with this investigation, he is being led into a hall of mirrors, where there is danger at every turn and nothing is quite clear...
Start reading Game of Mirrors
When a gentleman arrives at Montalbano's station to report an armed robbery on his wife that ended with a kiss, the inspector's suspicions are aroused.
As he delves deeper into the case, Montalbano finds that none of the witnesses' stories are adding up, and he can't help but feel that they're not meant to. When a body turns up showing all the signs of a mafia hit, the inspector knows he must excavate the truth from what he is being led to believe.
Meanwhile there's a case that keeps winding its way back to Montalbano's office. A locked door has suddenly appeared on a farmer's disused shed, and then, just as quickly, the door disappears. The anti-terrorist police soon intervene, but why are they so keen to keep this away from the inspector? And why does he sense that this case is connected to him somehow? With deceit at every turn and a distraction of the heart taking over his head, Inspector Montalbano must focus if he is ever going to solve this mystery.
Start reading Blade of Light
Feeling his age, as his birthday rolls round once again, Inspector Montalbano decides to cheer himself up by dealing with a young driver's road rage in his own unique way.
But his joy is short-lived, as at police headquarters he receives an angry phone call from a supermarket boss; there's been a robbery at his store and Montalbano's colleague is treating him as a suspect. On arrival at the scene, Montalbano quickly agrees with Inspector Augello that this was no ordinary break-in, but with the supermarket's infamous links to the Mafia creating problems at every turn, this isn't going to be an easy case for the inspector to solve.
And to add to Montalbano's burden, the young driver he made an enemy of earlier in the week has returned to police headquarters to report a shocking crime...
Start reading A Voice in the Night
An elderly man is found dead in the dining room of his Vigàtan beach house; his coffee spilt across the table, a gunshot wound through the back of his head. The son who discovered the body has the most to gain from his father's untimely death, and his sister is quick to point out why. But as Inspector Montalbano learns more about the victim's dishonourable life, he soon finds half of Vigàta has a motive for the murder. The inspector truly has his work cut out for him this time.
Find out more
Sign up to The Thin Blue Spine newsletter to get the latest and best crime book recommendations straight to your inbox every month.