Inspector Montalbano finale, review: arrivederci to Sicily's sexiest, baldest little detective

·2 min read
Luca Zingaretti as Salvo Montalbano - Duccio Giordano
Luca Zingaretti as Salvo Montalbano - Duccio Giordano

After 14 seasons, 22 years, and many more shots of espresso than firearms discharged, on Saturday police procedural Inspector Montalbano (BBC Four) came to a feature-length conclusion. I can see why retirement beckons but it hurt all the same.

To explain; Inspector Montalbano has been the very definition of appointment television in my house. At once an antidote to the bleak melancholy of Nordic noir and the knockabout hamminess of Death in Paradise, this slice of Sicily has maintained a uniquely Mediterranean sensibility. From the sun-bleached opening credits in which the baroque hilltop splendour of Ragusa stands in for the fictional town of Vigata, to the ongoing preoccupation with coffee, women and seafood – all of which rank considerably higher than crime fighting – it’s been as moreish as a pyramid of cannoli.

As for our eponymous hero, Inspector Salvo Montalbano, a Raymond Chandler quote that springs to mind: “Men want to be him, women want to be with him.” Admittedly the detective writer was referring to James Bond rather than a short, bald, middle-aged Italian. But make no mistake, the inspector – cool, irascible and driving a clapped out Fiat – possesses the uniquely compelling charisma of an antihero.

This is no schlocky mafia exposé – when it comes to felonies and fraud, Italy’s misdemeanours are as rigidly regional as its pasta shapes. Montalbano’s sleepy corner of the island is a world away from the menace of Palermo, which is felicitous as it affords him more time to swim in the sea, brood at his desk and eat lobster at his favourite restaurant. All in absolute silence. Occasionally his beautiful girlfriend comes to visit. They make love. They eat dinner. She leaves. He returns to his silence – now can you see why men want to be him?

In this final outing, Salvo was very much living his best life; a dip in the cerulean waters, an excellent meal and a seduction in which he kissed his new inamorata with the sort of slurpy, single-mindedness he usually reserves for freshly landed ricci di mare. Dear reader, I blushed.

There was the usual opera buffa cameo from uniformed officer Catarella and his moustached serial philanderer colleague Mimi but truthfully this leave taking was a knowing celebration of everything the inspector stands for; wry humour, eye-rolling irritation, extravagant passion and of course, a good lunch. It ended with justice served alongside the linguine alle vongole. Body and soul sated.

Ciao Salvo e grazie!

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