I hadn’t intended to write another review on Michael Dibdin’s Aurelio Zen series, but with the news, firstly, that the BBC is running three movie length programs based on the books and, secondly, that Rufus Sewell (swoon) is playing the lead, I couldn’t help myself. Sewell will be perfect for the part – tall, dark and handsome, balanced with menace, grit and intrigue – he has all the requirements to play the main character. (Just like my husband). And all the more so, when he’s wearing that ever so dashing, yummy suit they gave him. One reviewer said that the suit alone deserved a credit, it played its role so well.
Dead Lagoon is number four in the series, and this time we see Zen returned to his hometown of Venice where he is doing a favour investigating the haunting of an old family friend. To justify his presence outside his official jurisdiction, however, he needs to connect himself to an actual case. In typical Zen style, he bluffs his way into the investigation of a missing wealthy American patriarch and ends up smack bang in the middle of a political and criminal drama within the city.
In the story, Zen not only finds himself confronted by the ghosts of his family friend, but the ghosts of his own former life in Venice. His past gets neatly woven into the tale, and this is especially salient, as Venice is his hometown, his former stomping ground. This is where his family name is well-known and esteemed, and the friends of his upbringing still live.
And no Zen story would be complete without a little romance. The only problem, though, is that he has left his girlfriend back in Rome and has taken up with the much younger wife of the upcoming, popular new face in politics for the Veneto region. Nothing with Zen is ever simple.
Zen’s Venice, too, is certainly not the uncomplicated, picture perfect Venice of cozy travel books. Dibdin brings the city to life in a way that only someone familiar with the setting can do, and this is one of the reasons I love Dibdin’s books so much: you get to see the country as the locals do, warts and all, with an insight into the lives of the people and the politics and culture that drive them.
So if you’re interested in Italian life or if you’ve been following Zen’s Criminalpol career so far, this is a worthy addition to the series. The end of the story further whets our appetites for more of Zen in the future, too, with some hints about the whereabouts of his missing father.