Andrea Camilleri was born in 1925 to harbor official Giuseppe and his wife Carmelina Camilleri. He grew up in the small Sicilian west coast town of Empedocle during the dictatorship of Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. He was always an innovative and disruptive child and was expelled from a Catholic School for defacing a crucifix. He went on to finish his schooling at a state school before proceeding to university. Camilleri never finished his university studies as he dropped out in the late 1940s to become an author. He wrote several short stories and poetry and was even shortlisted for some prestigious literary award. By the end of the 40s, he decided that he wanted to become a theater director and attended the Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica, where he studied direction. He went on to have a successful career directing and producing the works of Samuel Beckett. In 1957, he met and married Rosetta Dello Siesto and got employment with RAI the newly established Italian state broadcaster. At RAI, he executive produced several hit investigative series that included including “Commissioner Maigret’s Inquiries’ that was an adaptation of Georges Simenon’s fictional sleuth. Another popular series he produced was “Le Avventure di Laura Storm” that featured a female sleuth that also had martial arts skills, which made it a groundbreaking series in 1960s Italy.
Had Camilleri died in his fifties, he would have been remembered as a man that contributed much to Italian TV and drama and not as a novelist. He published his first novel “Il Corso Delle Cose” in 1978 and followed it up with “Un Filo di Fumo” in 1980. The two novels never gained much traction and he found it difficult to publish since many publishers did not like his writing, which combined Italian with a Sicilian dialect and an idiosyncratic style. It was not until 1992 that he got his first bestseller when he published “Hunting Season.” He was 68 years old when he published his first novel in the Inspector Montalbano series that made him one of the most popular mysteries and thriller authors in the world. His success with his debut novel “The Shape of Water” that he published in 1994 drove him into a frenzy of writing. In the fifteen years between 1994 and 2019, he wrote more than 60 novels with 30 of them featuring the cantankerous Inspector Montalbano. There were some years when he published an average of eight novels each year, which was quite an achievement for a man in his eighties. The adaptation of his novels into a TV series that had Luca Zingaretti as the lead made him even much more popular. His home town decided to change its name to Porto Empedocle Vigàta in honor of the town of Vigata in which the novels are set. By the time of his death at the ripe old age of 93, he had more than 30 million copies of his works in print in more than 32 languages.
Andrea Camilleri Inspector Montalbano series was partly inspired by his father, though the character is an ode to Manuel Vasquez Montalbano the Spanish author. The lead is a detective based in Vigata, a fictional town that is modeled on Camilleri’s hometown of Empedocle. He drew his inspiration from many sources that included the work of his favorite author Pirandello, local newspaper stories and several other sources. He wrote his novels in a set formula with each having eighteen chapters and the entire novel approximately 180 pages long. Like your typical detective Inspector, Montalbano is a melancholy, sometimes sarcastic and gruff man that has to deal with crime and a complicated love life. Still he is something of the 1970s detective character Theo Kojak as he has a strong sense of public responsibility and is incorruptible. What makes Montalbano so relatable is that he honest when he is in the public sphere though he has an active dislike for sordid politics and bureaucracy. Camilleri also uses his novels and his characters as a critique of the impact of the economic, social and political life in Italy. He loves being an individual though he is not selfish since he is always looking to help some victim or other. He is more of a Pepe Carvalho, the private investigator created by the author Manuel Vasquez rather than a Sherlock Holmes or a logic-driven detective like Baker Street. Still, he loves the simple things in life and is a very good gourmet cook.
“The Shape of Water” is Andre Camilleri’s first novel that introduces the non-conformist, listless and dejected investigator Salvo Montalbano, who always manages to do his work in spite of his flaws. When the body of a local politician is found in a car in a seedy neighborhood famous for drug trafficking and prostitution, it is assumed that he died in illicit sexual intercourse. Inspector Montalbano’s superiors want to avoid embarrassment and ask him to bring the case to a quick conclusion. But he thinks there is more to the story and decides to perform a full investigation. While investigating the case, he encounters several comical and bizarre characters that range from an intellectual pimp that used to be his classmate and a middle-aged teacher whose wife is cheating on him. Montalbano is soon deep into the political world of Sicily, where he discovers high levels corruption in the Catholic Church and the collusion between the bureaucratic adversaries. He accepts his destiny and works hard to do his job and survive even when he is living in an impoverished area.
Camilleri’s second novel of the Inspector Montalbano series is “The Terra-Cotta Dog” that is set in the small sunny town of Vigata. Inspector Montalbano is dealing with several bizarre cases that include: the burglary of a local supermarket which is then looted but the goods are abandoned at a service station the following day, the discovery of the body of a stranger in the trunk of a car, the death of an elderly man that is involved in a single-car accident, and he is yet to understand why his old high school friend wants him to meet a local crime boss. There seems to be no connection between the different puzzles except that Montalbano is involved in all of them and finds some thread entangling all of them. Combining insider knowledge, deduction, and legwork, the detective collect the pieces of one of the most bizarre mysteries only to find a bigger crime. In a secret room inside a cave that had never been explored, he finds two bodies that had been dumped in the cavern for at least a generation. The man and woman are locked in an embrace while a dog watches over them. His investigations link the tragic deaths to the current events, which make things very interesting.
Andrea Camilleri’s third novel in the series “The Snack Thief” opens to Inspector Montalbano being awakened by a call from the Vigata police station. A Tunisian man was killed in international waters just off the coast, when a Tunisian patrol boat attacked his trawler. The boat heads to Vigata and the police are asked by the Italian government to produce a detailed report for an international investigation. The inspector does not want to get involved and is happy to let his colleague Mimi take it up since he has more interesting cases that he has been working on for a few weeks. A businessman had been found dead in the elevator of his building after being stabbed multiple times. He is also working on what he thinks is a mundane case of theft of pre-lunch snacks at a local school. But as he works on both cases more mysteries are unearthed and he thinks the three cases may just have something in common.
Books in order of publication by series:
Inspector Montalbano Books
|The Shape of Water||(2002)|
|The Terra-Cotta Dog||(2002)|
|The Snack Thief||(2003)|
|Voice of the Violin||(2003)|
|Excursion To Tindari||(2005)|
|The Smell of the Night / The Scent of the Night||(2005)|
|Rounding the Mark||(2006)|
|The Patience of the Spider||(2007)|
|The Paper Moon||(2008)|
|The Wings of the Sphinx||(2009)|
|The Track of Sand||(2010)|
|The Potter’s Field||(2011)|
|The Age of Doubt||(2012)|
|The Dance of the Seagull||(2013)|
|Montalbano’s First Case||(2013)|
|The Fourth Secret||(2014)|
|Game of Mirrors||(2015)|
|A Beam of Light / Blade of Light||(2015)|
|A Voice in the Night||(2016)|
|A Nest of Vipers||(2017)|
|The Pyramid of Mud||(2018)|
|Death at Sea||(2018)|
|The Overnight Kidnapper||(2019)|
|The Other End of the Line||(2019)|
|The Safety Net||(2020)|
Chronological Order of Inspector Montalbano Books
When reading this series in chronological order, read the novella Montalbano’s First Case first then Death at Sea.
|The Brewer of Preston||(2012)|
|The Revolution of the Moon||(2017)|
|The Sect of Angels||(2019)|
|The Sacco Gang||(2018)|