Acclaimed Italian crime writer Andrea Camilleri, the creator of Inspector Montalbano, died in July at the age of 93. He came to crime writing in later life. After a successful career as a theatre director, TV playwright and historical novelist, in 1994, at the age of 70, he wrote The Shape of Water, the first in the Inspector Montalbano series, set in his fictional town of Vigata in Sicily. And the rest is history, as the novels have sold over 65 million copies worldwide, have been translated into 32 languages and been adapted into a popular TV series shown in Australia on SBS. The 13th in the series, The Potter's Field, was awarded the CWA's International Dagger for the best crime novel translated into English in 2008.
Camilleri has written 27 Montalbano mysteries in Italian and The Overnight Kidnapper is the 23rd to be translated into English.
Montalbano's day begins in The Overnight Kidnapper with a brawl on the beach outside his house. Mistaken for a brawler by the carabinieri, Montalbano is arrested before his identity is revealed. As a result, he arrives at the police station in Vigata with " a dark circle around on eye . . . and a swollen ear", to discover everyone in the town knows of his early morning adventures.
At the station, Montalbano also learns that, the previous night, on her way home from work, a young woman has been held up at gunpoint, chloroformed and kidnapped but then released unharmed, with all her possessions.
Later that day Enzo, who owns Montalbano's favourite trattoria, tells him that his niece has also been kidnapped in a similar fashion. A third victim is not so fortunate as she is violently assaulted. Montalbano declares, "this is one of those typical cases you can break your head over". All three women work for one of the many banks in Vigata. "There were lots of banks in Vigata. The most amazing thing was that the more the town sank into poverty and misery - with factories shut down, shops declaring bankruptcy, unemployment rates through the roof - the more banks sprang up. How does one explain such a mystery". Camilleri has said that, "In my books, I deliberately decided to smuggle into a detective novel a critical commentary on my times."
Montalbano will need all his skills of logic and intuition to solve a case that inevitably leads to murder.
There are many factors that contribute to the extraordinary success of Camilleri's Montalbano crime novels: the combination of humour with violence; the picturesque setting of Sicily and particularly Montalbano's house on the beach at Marinella: the food at Enzo's trattoria and the tantalising dinners left each day by Adelina: the distinct personalities of Montalbano's colleagues, the comic buffo of Catarella, Fazio's attention to detail and Mimi Augello's never-ending success with women and, of course, Montalbano himself and the complex mysteries that Camilleri creates for him to solve. If you are an avid fan, there are only four more Montalbano mysteries to be enjoyed once they are translated into English. However, Camilleri revealed in 2012 that there is a final novel deposited at his publishers in which he "finishes off " his detective, stating "When I get fed up with him or am not able to write any more, I'll tell the publisher: Publish that book."
Vale Camilleri. You will be sorely missed (and so will Montalbano).