Available on DVD from Mon 27 Oct
Fans of Sicily’s bullet-headed TV detective Montalbano will find much that’s familiar in these adaptations of author Valerio Varesi’s novels; Beautiful scenery, beautiful women, mouthwatering food and murders with motives lost in the mists (or fog) of the past. However, instead of the linen shirts and summer dresses of the south here the characters are, to use a good Scottish expression, weel happit in jumpers and winter coats as Fog and Crimes is set in the cold, but beautiful, northern Italian city of Ferrara.
Luca Barbareschi stars as Inspector Soneri. Crumpled, grizzled and carrying the memory of his late wife on his shoulders, he’s not as tetchy as his southern counterpart, but he doesn’t suffer fools gladly, at least the ones in authority. Although a little misanthropic he does have an avuncular relationship with his assistant Luvara (Gianluca Gobbi) – a walking embodiment of Mole from “Wind in the Willows” – and his fragility comes to the fore in his love affair with lawyer Angela (Natasha Stefanenko), with whom he’s often as clumsy and inarticulate as a lovelorn schoolboy.
Apart from Barbareschi’s performance, which makes Soneri a believably likeable and flawed character, the shows biggest strengths are in its plots and location. There are more than enough twists and turns in the stories to suit whodunit fans and there’s a very Italian understanding of human frailty and ideas of honour behind many of the crimes. Its only negative is an Agatha Christie like tendency to withhold vital clues until the last few scenes.
Ferrara is great setting from crime. Lacking the blue skies and sunshine of most Italian TV, this stunning medieval city with its cobbles and narrow streets is, especially when cloaked in fog, rain and occasional snow, the sort of place where you can easily imagine trouble lurking in the shadows.
This isn’t a first rate crime drama; it would be wrong to compare it to the Nordic Noirs which are in a different league – but it’s a well-written, well-acted and beautifully shot piece, with enough cold and knitwear on show to keep you entertained whilst you wait for your next bout of Scandinavian bloodletting.