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Montalbano's last stand in Camilleri's posthumous novel

A statue of Camilleri's character Salvo Montalbano in the author's native Sicilian village Porto Empedocle
A statue of Camilleri's character Salvo Montalbano in the author's native Sicilian village Porto Empedocle Andreas SOLARO AFP/File
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Rome (AFP)

The last whodunnit featuring famed Sicilian police inspector Salvo Montalbano hit the bookshelves in Italy on Thursday, nearly a year to the day after the death of author Andrea Camilleri.

"Riccardino" was first penned by the celebrated author in 2005, then tweaked in 2016, after which Camilleri gave it to his publisher on the promise it would not be released until after his death.

Fans are in for a special treat: not only do they get another murder for grumpy Montalbano to resolve, but Camilleri himself makes an appearance.

The author, who died on July 18, 2019, at the age of 93, turns up to tick his detective off after he is reluctant to get on with the new case, according to an extract of the novel published by the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

"I offer you a lead and you mess around, and I find myself in trouble. As a writer, I mean. We can't go on like this, you have to start investigating," he tells him sternly in a telephone call.

An unimpressed Montalbano hangs up on him.

The Riccardino of the title gets bumped off on page 9. Montalbano also reportedly takes a bow, though Camilleri had promised fans he would not kill off his gruff food-loving sleuth.

"The fact that Montalbano -- unlike other serial characters such as Sherlock Holmes or Maigret -- gets older, takes part in everyday life, makes it increasingly difficult for me to keep up with him," he said in an interview in 2005.

"So I decided to write the final novel. But he doesn't end up getting shot or retiring...," he said.

Initially a theatre and television director and scriptwriter, Camilleri became a novelist later in life, publishing his first book at the age of 57.

The politically-engaged author, who never shied away from criticising those in power, would go on to sell some 20 million books in Italy, and publish 30-odd novels featuring Montalbano which were translated into about 30 languages.

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