arrived at the sexiest and baldest little detective in Sicily

After 14 seasons, 22 years, and far more shots of espresso than firearms discharged, police procedurals on Saturday Inspector Montalbano (BBC Four) came to a feature-length conclusion. I can see why the retreat is beckoning but it still hurts.

Explain; Detective Montalbano was the very definition of date TV in my house. Both an antidote to the dark melancholy of Nordic noir and the madcap feel of Death in Paradise, this slice of Sicily has retained a uniquely Mediterranean sensibility. From the sun-bleached opening credits in which the baroque splendor of the Ragusa hillside replaces the fictional town of Vigata, to the constant preoccupation with coffee, women and seafood – all of which rank considerably higher than fighting crime – it was also more of a pyramid of cannoli.

As for our eponymous hero, Inspector Salvo Montalbano, a Raymond Chandler quote that comes 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 slammed Fiat – has the irresistible charisma of an anti-hero.

It’s not a schlocky expose of the mafia – when it comes to crime and fraud, Italy’s crimes are as rigidly regional as its pasta forms. The sleepy corner of Montalbano Island is a world away from the threat of Palermo, which is fortunate because it gives him more time to swim in the sea, ruminate at his desk, and eat lobster at his favorite restaurant. All in absolute silence. From time to time, his beautiful girlfriend comes to visit him. They make love. They eat dinner. She leave. He returns to his silence – can you now understand why men want to be him?

On this latest outing, Salvo was truly living his best life; a dip in cerulean waters, a great meal, and a seduction in which he embraced his new inamorata with the kind of slurpy and determination 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 fellow mustachioed serial womanizer Mimi, but honestly this taking leave was a conscious celebration of all that the Inspector stands for; ironic humor, eye irritation, extravagant passion and of course, a good lunch. It ended with justice being served alongside linguine alle vongole. Satisfied body and soul.

Ciao Salut e grazie!

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