Convoluted does not begin to describe the house of mirrors that this set of murders reveals in a small Italian wine village. "Everyone knows" what is what, leading to suspicions upon suspicions, and shifting loyalties and different explanations that will keep the reader doubting his own sense even of events that are "seen" firsthand. Complex and fruity, with an aftertaste of lingering spice.
Love Michael Dibdin's unusual mysteries with that great character, Aurelio Zen! The PBS Mystery series with Zen was a treat!
Aurelio Zen is dispatched to a small village in Piedmont, a rural bucolic setting amid notable vineyards. While enjoying heaping plates of pasta and truffles, and endless glasses of wine, he must solve a grisly murder. With his usual eccentricity he uncovers the shocking truth and once again baffles his superiors.
This is #6 in a now-ended series of 11 books featuring an Italian character named Aurelio Zen. So by #6, the author should have learned how to write well. But no, this book has suitably complex plot but with not enough characters to keep up the suspense, since everyone is either murdered or is guilty or is clearly a strawman; characterization is sometimes good but more often it’s two-dimensional; there are untranslated Italian phrases thrown in to impress us and to add “flavour”; there’s a homosexual element that even a straight person can see is hopelessly full of clichés about being effete and dressing too carefully; at least one subplot is left hanging at the end and the denouement is too easy; and there are too many scene and time changes that aren’t well signposted.
Another dark and convoluted murder mystery featuring Aurelio on location in the fertile wine & truffle producing area of northern Italy around Turin & Milan. Initially sent to investigate the murder of a prominent vintner in the region, the bodies quickly begin to pile up. Colourful characters, lots of sleuthing, a few out-of-body experiences and every so often interspersed with Zen’s amusingly naïve and opinionated views about modern technology and anything non –Italian, delightfully rounded off with a suitably macabre ending. Having recently seen the BBC series, loosely adapted from Dibdin’s earliest Zen novels, I can easily picture this story unfolding on screen – here’s hoping it’s in the works.
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