Friday, 24 August 2012

Inspector Montalbano series 2, starring Luca Zingaretti PREVIEW

Cool operator: Luca Zingaretti as Montalbano. Pics: BBC
Rating: ★★★½ 

BBC4: Saturday, 25 August, 9pm

Story: The inspector is out taking his morning swim when he has the grisly misfortune to collide with a floating corpse. It is the beginning of one of his most difficult cases, involving the disturbing trade in child trafficking.

If you're going to be a policeman anywhere in Europe, Vigata in Sicily seems a pleasant beat. It's by the sea, the sun always shines and the police station is a pretty laid back place to be.

OK, there is the odd murder and corruption that you would expect in Sicily, but if you're a smart operator, such as Salvo Montalbano, there are compensations – wonderful food, a charming girlfriend and the glorious setting.

Crime writer Andrea Camilleri
The author Andrea Camilleri, on whose popular novels these stories are based, combines our fascination with life in this most voluble, passionate and enchanting island with some engrossing crime mysteries.

The stories take on serious issues – immigration, murder, people trafficking, corruption – but they are usually light in tone and always revel in the Sicilian way of life.

Horrible surprise during Montalbano's morning swim
Since the first series went out on BBC4 earlier this year, the drama has won a small but dedicated following. So the Beeb has been quick to bring along this series of 12 new Montalbano films, starting with Turning Point.

There is some laugh-out loud humour mixed with a grim opening for the Commissario, who, after discovering a bloated corpse during his morning swim and towed it back to the beach with the draw string from his trunks, is then confronted by two old busybodies who think he is the murderer.

Child trafficking and murder
The commissario helps an illegal arrival
The story expands to reveal the cut-throat world of the international trade in child trafficking in the Med. When Montalbano tries to help a boy, an illegal arrival, and then look up his mother, he finds the pair of them have disappeared, and he begins to unpick the disturbing, dangerous trade in humans.

Few crime series would bother to reveal our hero's preference in how he likes his fish prepared at his favourite restaurant – certainly not those set in, say, Scandinavia or Ireland. But this is Italy and such things must be respected before baddies can be apprehended.

Luca Zingaretti
The bullet-headed Luca Zingaretti is a lead with unorthodox looks perhaps, but makes an appealing, charismatic hero. He is a fine mix of wit and passion in what is a complex but excellent opening story.

So, how does Montalbano like his freshly caught fish? To taste of the sea, he says – perhaps forgetting that he's just discovered a dead body there.

Cast: Luca Zingaretti Salvo Montalbano, Cesare Bocci Augello, Peppino Mazzotta Fazio, Angelo Russo Catarella, Isabell Sollman Ingrid, Elia Schilton Sozio Melato