THE Scandinavian invasion has defined crime fiction in recent years as we embraced chilly, bleak and ingeniously gruesome novels from Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo and Hakan Nesser. Perhaps readers are now ready for a warmer crime climate. Just as Mankell’s Wallander novels benefited from TV adaptations, 87-year-old Andrea Camilleri’s enjoying a sales boost for his Sicilian policiers thanks to the Inspector Montalbano TV series on BBC4.
Montalbano is hot-blooded but astute, a dedicated investigator with his own moral code. Italian society’s problems – corruption, the mafia, political instability – add a dose of disturbing reality to Camilleri’s concise yet labyrinthine crime stories. This veteran author’s observations on his country enrich these novels as much as Montalbano’s obvious pleasure in Sicilian cuisine: in The Potter’s Field (published in paperback in November) the detective breaks off from his investigation to tuck into a picnic including a whole tumazzo cheese and a flask of wine. Beginning with The Shape of Water, there are 14 Montalbano novels to be devoured. Follow that feast with Marco Vichi’s series set in 1960s Florence, featuring the reflective Inspector Bordelli, a former partisan and dedicated gourmand whose favourite pork chops recipe is printed at the back of the second novel, Death and the Olive Grove. Italian crime series by Michael Dibdin, Donna Leon and Gianrico Carofiglio are also worth investigating.