The Italian Almanac

Andrea Camilleri

Camilleri - Master Crime Writer

Sicilian crime writer Andrea Camilleri has been ranked alongside the masters of the genre in a list published by British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. Camilleri, whose Inspector Montalbano mysteries are enjoying a huge vogue in Britain, was named as one of the 50 crime writers ''to read before you die''. Placing Camilleri alongside Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith, Georges Simenon and Ed McBain.

The Telegraph's critics said: ''The real subject of Camilleri's books is the state of Sicily but his characters are vivid ones and their dilemmas eternal ones. Camilleri's style suits his hero, Inspector Montalbano, a Sicilian with a great sense of humour''. The 50 authors also included Friedrich Durrenmatt, Dashiell Hammett and even Charles Dickens, ''whose Inspector Buckett from Bleak House is one of the first detectives to appear in novels''. They were not placed in any order and the main criterion for selection was finding ''crime writers who really know how to write''.

Inspector Montalbano novels such as The Shape of Water, The Scent of the Night, The Terracotta Dog and The Voice of the Violin have steadily climbed the British best-sellers lists. The scale of their success has been surprising in a country that is not given to reading books in translation. The one Camilleri it is ''essential'' to read, The Telegraph said, was The Patience of the Spider, which came out in English last year.