So that's what he looks like with hair... This prequel series is more than just a spin-off. These sun-soaked Sicilian detective stories are highly absorbing and flesh out the characters well.
The original Inspector Montalbano was a warm breeze of TV detective fiction to counter the chill wind of Nordic Noir. Midnight swims, gourmet suppers, historic scenery and a light comic touch were the background to some tightly plotted whodunnits that made for perfect evening TV.
So the chances of a prequel matching its quality seemed quite remote to me.
As it turns out, the first two series of Young Montalbano have been even better than the original.
The skill with which the actors are matched to their older versions is remarkable – not least the young version of Officer Catarella, who finds ever more ways to fall through doors, but tugs the emotions with his loyalty to the inspector.
The main side characters – womanising Augella and diligent Fazio – are more clearly defined in this series, and the young Livia, Montalbano’s girlfriend, is more charming than her older equivalent.
The plots are still well-paced, taking two hours to unfurl and being neither so obvious that the suspense disappears, nor so obtuse that you give up caring.
Again bearing a fair likeness of tone to a Sicilian Inspector Morse, this set of episodes has a varied collection of plots. While one episode is a little slow, it is more than made up for by another, where three unlikely strands come together impeccably and we even see the police being lookouts for a burglar.
There is an inventive edge to these stories, as the titles sometimes give away, such as “The man Who Followed Funerals”.
The Mafia are still in evidence, but rather than be a storm surrounding Montalbano, they are a cloud on the horizon, with peripheral Mafioso involved in fallout situations.
This second series is strong, but even better value is a box set of both the first and second series, where all the initial scene-setting adds to the enjoyment. Highly recommended.