Answer: They are the protagonists in our favorite English-language mystery series set in contemporary Italy. The authors of these series have been prolific. Between them they have published 71 wonderful novels set in Italy in the last twenty-five years. Most of these authors are still cranking out sequels at a rate of one every 1-5 years. Donna Leon leads the pack with a new Commissario Brunetti mystery every 12 months. (See our exclusive interview with Donna Leon.) It appeared that Michael Dibdin had retired his Aurelio Zen in 1999, but fortunately, he was resurrected early 2002. The first series were by Timothy Holme (1980) and Magdalen Nabb (1981). The most insightful author is Timothy Williams with his series staring Commissario Trotti. Williams does the best job of portraying the subtle and complex political and social character of modern day Italy. His 5th book was published in 1996 and he informs us that he has completed a 6th Trotti mystery called Second Day of the Renaissance; however, it is still unpublshed. The Inspector Salvo Montalbano mystery series, by the famous Italian writer Andrea Camilleri, is now being published in English translation with five books in the series translated to date.
Two of the series have a female protagonist. The Art Theft/Forgery series by Iain Pears featuring Flavia de Stefano and the relatively new series by Carlo Lucarelli featuring Ispettore Grazia Negro. Edward Sklepowich casts an American, Urbino Macintyre, as his main character. Marshall Browne has published two mysteries in the relatively new series featuring Inspector Anders and is supposedly working on a third. The newest entry in this field is David Hewson with his Rome-based detective Nic Costa series.
Most of the other authors on our list have written only one or two of their series set in Italy. Usually, all of their main characters are either English or American. Aside from obvious tourist references to Italy, most of these other novels do not give the reader any sense of the Italian character, culture, or bureaucracy.
The reader gets the maximum enjoyment out of a series by reading the books in chronological order. All the books in the Top-Ranked list (5 & 4 flags) have meaningful back references and evolving development of a recurring cast of characters. These are highly recommended by Italian-mysteries.com.
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