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Back to Bologna (An Aurelio Zen Mystery) [Paperback]

Michael Dibdin
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
RRP: 6.99
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Book Description

4 May 2006 An Aurelio Zen Mystery

When the corpse of the shady industrialist who owns the local football team is found both shot and stabbed with a Parmesan knife, Italian police inspector Aurelio Zen is called to Bologna to oversee the investigation. Recovering slowly from surgery, and fleeing an equally painful crisis in his personal life, Zen is only too happy to take on what at first appears to be a routine and relatively undemanding assignment.

But soon a world-famous university professor is shot with the same gun, immediately after publicly humiliating Italy's leading celebrity television chef, and the case-intertwined with the fates of an earnest student of semiotics and a mysterious young immigrant who claims to be from Ruritania-spins out of control, and Zen is in no condition to rise to the challenge. There's also a wild card in the pack, Tony Speranza, Bologna's most flamboyant private detective.

Back to Bologna is dazzlingly plotted, features a cast of vivid and idiosyncratic characters, and along the way delivers both comic and serious insights into the realities of today's Italy.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (4 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571227775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571227778
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 17.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 300,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Dibdin was born in 1947. He went to school in Northern Ireland, and later to Sussex University and the University of Alberta in Canada. He lived in Seattle. After completing his first novel, The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, in 1978, he spent four years in Italy teaching English at the University of Perugia. His second novel, A Rich Full Death, was published in 1986. It was followed by Ratking in 1988, which won the Gold Dagger Award for the Best Crime Novel of the year and introduced us to his Italian detective - Inspector Aurelio Zen. In 1989 The Tryst was published to great acclaim and was followed by Vendetta in 1990, the second story in the Zen series. Dirty Tricks was published in 1991. Inspector Zen made his third appearance in Cabal, which was published in 1992. The Dying of the Light, an Agatha Christie pastiche, was published in 1993. His fourth Zen novel, Dead Lagoon, was published the following year. His next novel, Dark Spectre, was published in 1995. Two more Zen novels followed: Cosi Fan Tutti, set in Naples, was published in 1996 and A Long Finish was published in 1998. Blood Rain, the seventh Zen novel, was published in 1999. Thanksgiving was published in 2000, with the eighth Zen, And Then You Die, appearing in 2002. Aurelio Zen returned in Medusa, in August 2003, and then again in Back to Bologna in 2005. His last novel, End Games, was published posthumously in July 2007.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Every so often--and his new novel Back to Bolognais a good example of this--Michael Dibdin stretches the form of the detective novel to involve his often glum detective Aurelio Zen in situations of wild, bloody farce. Dragged back to work in spite of ill health that may be hypochondria, and faced with the breakdown of his long-term relationship, Zen finds himself caught up in the murder of a football club owner, a cooking duel between a celebrity chef and a post-modern professor and the amorous adventures of a beautiful immigrant from Ruritania. Back to Bologna combines some sharp satirical comments with a dim view of unreasonable behaviour, whether by spoiled brat football hooligans or blundering private eyes. Dibdin combines sharply-phrased misanthropy with a capacity ultimately to forgive human weakness. Many of his books are classics of modern crime writing; Back to Bologna is perhaps less ambitious, but it is a technically accomplished delight. ---Roz Kaveney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"'Pure pleasure from the first page to the last.' Mark Sanderson, Evening Standard"

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple, but still good 8 Aug 2006
Format:Hardcover
This is a short book with a plot which is interesting without being challenging. The beauty of Dibdin, however, remains his very rich writing, his wit and his insights. Rarely does Dibdin produce a poor read and once again he has done himself proud with this effort. I have trouble warming to Zen, his lead character, but this didn't detract from the overall appeal of this book. Keep 'em coming Mr Dibdin.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Dibdin 27 Sep 2006
Format:Hardcover
I have followed the career of Inspector Zen closely for a number of years, but I think that he is clearly due for retirement. In 'Back to Bologna' Dibdin seems to be going through the motions: he has brought Zen back from the dead, but not to life. The plotting is slipshod: the Curti murder is not explored sufficiently, nor is the football milieu in which it takes place,and Dibdin gives the impression that he has never been to a football game. This background is clumsily provided in the form of long explanations given to Zen by a fellow police officer. The figure of Tony Speranza is ludicrous and unnecessary, apparently only there to provide the murder weapon. Dibdin indulges himself by painting an unflattering picture of Umberto Eco and all his (bestselling) works, although this is hardly likely to worry the academic author himself. The deterioration of Zen's relationship with his 'wife' is not explained, and Zen's physical and psychological problems, described at length at the beginning of the book, seem to disappear on his return to Bologna. I find the combination of farce and cynicism which characterises Dibdin's recent books rather unpleasant. In future I will stick to Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 8 Dec 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a great admirer of the Zen novels it probably took me longer than some to realise that this was not a standard Aurelio Zen story, but a lighthearted parody. It involves a plot as convulated and reliant on unlikely coincidence as anything in Shakespeare's comedies (to which there is a sly reference in the text). It also involves another fictional detective in a walk-on part in which he makes little or no impression.
It is as if Conan Doyle had written the script for one of the post-modern film versions of Sherlock Holmes; and about as interesting.
I must add that I found the vulgar language of some characters jarring and unpleasantly out of place.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A load of old bolognese 21 April 2008
Format:Hardcover
Judging from the other reviews you either "get" this book or you don't. I've read it four times and think it quite wonderful; it even made me laugh out loud in several places. It certainly pays re-reading to pick up what you missed first time round.
Yes, it's a fairly hopeless plot for a detective novel. Yes, the central character is largely disinterested in the action and wanders off-stage for large sections of the book; and yes, "cardboard cut-out" can describe more than one of the central characters. But that is the whole point.
The parodies and subversions tumble over each other, and when they don't quite work - as sometimes happens - the book seems really to be sticking its tongue out at itself in the mirror.
It's a deliciously playful game that should be understood for what it is. No more. No less.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
The reviews below are already very lengthy so I won't bore readers with a plot synopsis. Suffice to say, the subtlety, the mystique, the clever inter-linked plotlines are all missing from this very lazy book.
I have always believed that the Aurelio Zen books would have made a great TV series, a la Poirot, with Italian locations/atmosphere and clever unfolding plotlines. Here Dibdin seems to be making an unashamed play to attract the attention of TV producers with a corny, cloying story (the alcoholic singing chef that can can't cook is particularly annoying and unlikely) and a ridiculously contrived ending.
Having really enjoyed Dibdin's earlier works (Dead Lagoon being my favourite, with the sinister atmosphere of Venice brilliantly captured) I am deeply disappointed with this latest showing.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Back to Bologna 21 Jan 2006
Format:Hardcover
I have been a big fan of Michael Dibdin for most of his books, enjoying the development of the fascinating character of Aurelio Zen, the tight plots, and the most insightful Italian context.
The last 2 or 3 books, however, have made me cool off somewhat, and this last one - Back to Bologna - I found awful. The characters were mostly caricatures, with far too much extraneous guff spent on what might be thought of as their development; the hero and his partner had gone completely off the rails, and the plot was highly questionable.
And he even had one of his police inspectors called Brunetti; what's the matter with him? I can't believe that he's not aware of Donna Leon's splendid hero.
Sorry, Michael Dibdin, the Zen series is all washed up. Try something else or leave us alone.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
The latest Aurelio Zen novel takes Aurelio to Bologna - scene of infamous terrorist outrages in the "anni di piombi". The significant characters this time however are a TV chef, and a Professor Ugo who teaches Semiotics at Bologna University which appears to be a thinly veiled parody of Umberto Eco.
The narrative steps away from Zen for large chunks, and is perhaps at its best when it does - the picture of the Professor with his different rooms for different styles of writing is hilarious. (Incidentally - for really elegant writing about Italy and the world, Umberto Eco's columns in L'espresso - La Bustina di Minerva - are difficult to equal) When Zen is in the picture, Dibdin seems unsure what to do with him. The characterisation - like Zen himself - is grey and uncertain. An incompetent private eye, Tony Speranza is introduced, and the narrative drops quotes from Raymond Chandler's novel "The Big Sleep" and essay "the simple art of murder". The picture of Bologna is easy to recognise, in fact you would find it difficult not to see most of the sites referenced in 2 days there. This is a view of Bologna accessible to the tourist - compare this with the intensity of the feeling for Venice in "Dead Lagoon". An ending comes - not before time - which requires all the main characters to be in the same place at the right time and it is clumsy and inelegant.
This novel lacks the atmosphere of "Ratking" and "Dead Lagoon", the darkness of "And then you die" or the intense feel for the geography and people of "a long finish". "Cosi fan tutte" is a more sustained and better combination of humour, darkness, Italy and Zen - with its following the plot of Mozart and da Pontes Opera.
Is Dibdin bored? I hope not, he can write brilliantly about places I love, and at the edges of a genre which works well. This however feels lazier than his other books. Wait for the paperback - and till it is really cheap.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Dibdin having the most fun
A brilliant Dibdin Aurelio Zen story, full of farce, wit and humour. Such a relief after reading many plodding Scandinavian crime efforts.
Published 6 months ago by v Loesch
5.0 out of 5 stars Zen
I am a big fan of the series and enjoy all of these books. Have not been let down by any of them.Will keep buying them and reading them.
Published 8 months ago by Dr. S. Balboa
1.0 out of 5 stars Not so good
Had high expectations! The writing style left me cold. Location and scene setting did not do justice to the area and as such got in the way of the story telling. Read more
Published 14 months ago by David Bivens
4.0 out of 5 stars Zen - but not quite as usual
If you like Dibdin's Zen then you'll like this one too, but the structure of the book is far from the usual police procedural. Read more
Published 15 months ago by classicist
5.0 out of 5 stars a great author
as good as zen gets its a pity the author is no longer with us. he was a master story teller
Published 19 months ago by alistair
4.0 out of 5 stars Back to Bologna (Aurelio Zen Mystery)
First came across Aurelio Zen on television and very much enjoyed the experience and in the same way discovered Inspector Montalbano. Read more
Published 21 months ago by C. ANTJOULE
2.0 out of 5 stars avid reader
long winded with lots of words but no pace. I did not bond with Aurelio who did not detect anything, but may have done after I gave up waiting.
Published 22 months ago by juicer2
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a sausage
Yet another Zen tale, well crafted and evocative of yet another dimension of Italy, its people, its culture and its way of living and dying. Read more
Published on 8 May 2012 by Wladyslaw mejka
5.0 out of 5 stars Good to Great
Loved this book for its comic overturns; building on Cosi Fan Tutti, here Dibdin does not hold back in wit and imagination. Read more
Published on 20 Mar 2012 by Richard Latham
1.0 out of 5 stars The kind of escapist novel that I really wanted to escape from.
This is the last of the Zen novels that I shall bother to read and here is what I think about them:

Dibdin has created a main character who is neither credible nor... Read more
Published on 10 Mar 2011 by moby-dick
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