Michael Dibdin’s latest Italian mystery featuring Aurelio Zen is superb. This is his 9th in the Zen series and the best since ‘Dead Lagoon’ was published in 1994. In his past Zen thrillers, Dibdin set each novel in a different location in Italy, e.g. Umbria, Sardinia, Venice, Naples, and Sicily, to name a few. Other mystery series writers pick a single location, i.e., Donna Leon sets her Commissario Brunetti series in Venice and Magdalen Nabb’s Marshal Guarnaccia series is Florence-based.
Well, MEDUSA is set in six different regions of Northern Italy. The plot centers around a body, buried for thirty years in a cave in the Dolomites; Zen works out of Rome, but lives in Lucca with his ladyfriend, Gemma from the last book; the main characters were associated with the military in the 1970s and now live in Milan, Verona, Campione (near Lugano) and a rural area near Pesaro in the Marche region. Inspector Zen is one busy guy traveling from place to place to solve this one.
Zen works for the Polizia di Stato under the Interior Ministry, who are always in competition with the Carabinieri under the Defence Ministry. Dibdin does a great job of setting up this adversary situation to its fullest. Zen is trying to solve the mystery while the Carabinieri is trying to bury the facts from becoming public. This novel is very contemporary with many barbs directed toward Silvio Berlusconi and his current government. The plot is fast-moving and intriguing. In this one, Zen is all business and at his best, with his personal life taking a backseat, for a change.
- by Carlo Vennarucci