This week, I read Vendetta, the second book in the series. In that novel, Zen is stationed in Rome but is sent to Sardinia to investigate the murder of a rich and eccentric businessman, Oscar Burolo, and his wife and visitors to his vacation home in Sardinia.
This book has several outstanding elements. The prose is beautiful, and that alone makes it pleasant reading. The picture of Aurelio Zen's mundane life and his lusts and fears is very well done. He is no heroic figure, although he really does want to do the job honestly and well. He has a relationship with his elderly mother who lives with him that is well-drawn and turns in a different direction that you would expect. There is a flirtation with a secretary in his division that spices up the story.
What would happen when he no longer had this ready-made way of filling his days? The government had recently been making noises about the need to reduce the size of the bloated public sector. Early retirement for senior staff was one obvious option. Fortunately it was unlikely that anything more than talk would come of it. A government consisting of a coalition of five parties, each with an axe to grind and clients to keep happy, found it almost impossible to pass legislation that was likely to prove mildly unpopular with anyone, never mind tackle the bureaucratic hydra which kept almost a third of the working population in guaranteed employment. Nevertheless, he would have to retire one day. The thought of it continued to haunt him like the prospect of some chronic illness. How would he get through the day? What would he do? His life had turned into a dead end.Unfortunately I did not find the mystery element that intriguing, although I did like that there were multiple threads that are followed throughout. And I enjoyed the intrigues within his division.
The streets were steeped in mild November sunlight and ringing with sounds. Gangs of noisy schoolchildren passed by, flaunting the personalities that would be buried alive for the next five hours. The metallic roars of shutters announced that the shops in the area were opening for business. A staccato hammering and the swishing of a paint sprayer issued from the open windows of the basement workshops where craftsmen performed mysterious operations on lengths of moulded wood. But the traffic dominated: the uniform hum of new cars, the idiosyncratic racket of the old, the throaty gurgle of diesels, the angry buzzing of scooters and three-wheeled vans, the buses' hollow roar, the chainsaw sound of an unsilenced trail bike, the squeal of brakes, the strident discord of horns in conflict.
All in all, I would say that I found much more good than bad in this novel, and it was definitely a good experience to read it. Dibdin just doesn't fall into my list of must read authors. I welcome other views and suggestions and information about other novels in the series.
The books in the series are:
- Ratking (1988)
- Vendetta (1990)
- Cabal (1992)
- Dead Lagoon (1994)
- Cosi Fan Tutti (1996)
- A Long Finish (1998)
- Blood Rain (1999)
- And Then You Die (2002)
- Medusa (2003)
- Back to Bologna (2005)
- End Games (2007)
Also for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII event, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Reviews for that event are here.