My husband and I are so addicted to "Commissario Montalbano," the Italian TV series about a Sicilian detective, that it's replaced "Downton Abbey" on our viewing schedule. Based on the novels of Andrea Camillieri, each of the twenty-six episodes (public library or television) is about ninety minutes long, just enough for a pleasant evening's entertainment, a sort of after-dinner truffle.
The Sicilian scenery is spectacular, the characters lovable, notwithstanding the Italian male and female stereotypes, which to the American eye are cartoonish. These pleasurable little mysteries have some common features:
- The stories are concerned with social class, criminality, and corruption.
- The clues don't seem to add up even after the miscreants are arrested and brought to justice.
- There will be a corpse(s). If female, they will be naked and will often have suffered cuts; if male, they will usually have been shot.
- There will be very sexy love scenes, but otherwise love will not be requited.
- The innocent will suffer, but decency and justice will eventually prevail.
- For the most part, people eat well and live amid baroque decay.
What's not to like? If you're studying Italian, as I am, and love Italy, as I do, here's a chance to practice listening to native speakers. After while, you may not need the subtitles. And if you're going to Sicily, you can even rent the Commissario's seaside villa in Ragusa.