In our insatiable thirst for detective thrillers, foreign language productions have the benefit of introducing us to a different way of life in a setting which might well suggest the location of our next holiday.
In this case, the drama is set in the fictional Vigata, a quaint old stone-built town spreading over a hilly Sicilian coastline bathed in perpetual sunshine. Detective Montalbano occupies an elegant flat overlooking the Mediterranean where he can relax swimming at the end of each stressful episode.
We are introduced to a slow-paced (apart from the crimes, that is) way of life revolving round food - a man will put the enjoyment of a good meal before rushing to greet his lover - and the extended family, where relatives and workers gather on a sunny terrace to consume plentiful meals together.
Smartly turned out and astute, Montalbano somehow commands the respect of his staff despite the kind of volcanic outbursts which would have him sent on an anger management course in Britain. Like most detectives, he is on shaky terms with more senior officials, perhaps in part owing to his tendency to break the rules, but survives in his post, probably because he always seems to solve the crime in hand, usually through his ability to make deductions from very slim evidence.
The denouement is often unpredictable, partly because the very complicated plot tends to have a few twists which are hard to follow - and to be honest at times implausible. It's quite fast-moving, so with the sub-titles as an added constraint you have to concentrate.
Overall, it's worth watching as the characters are well-developed, the dialogue is amusing, the cases have intriguing aspects, and all does not end happily in every respect - there is a gritty undercurrent, say in the suffering of Tunisian immigrants in "The Snack Thief" or the continual hints at bribery and corruption amongst higher ranking officials, making the "honest" Montalbano a rarity.