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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A classy and absorbing detective story.
The latest in the Aurelio Zen mysteries is a welcome addition to Dibdin's genre of 'whodunnit' Italian travel writing, and as usual the sense of place and atmosphere is richly evocative. It is predominantly set in Sicily, and, as one would expect, it is filled with the intricacies of local mafia politics, although these are refreshingly unglamourized.
Dibdin moves...
Published on 18 Oct 1999

versus
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Audio book review- a-bit---precise
Right - it was the TV adaptation that brought Zen to my attention. The Kindle sample chapter of Ratking was readable enough, and before I had a chance to do anything else, I was lent this audio version of a book part way through the series. I'm not sure if I'd happened upon this as my first experience that I would go any further. I just can't take Michael Kitchen's style...
Published on 2 Feb 2011 by Julie Cutler


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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best audio book I have., 8 Feb 2011
By 
Zola fan "Nana" (Hants, UK) - See all my reviews
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Although an avid reader, I also like audio books (throwback to library story times and good teachers at school). I was excited to receive this one, I had never heard of Michael Dibdin or Zen (colleagues told me the TV series was brilliant) and with the excellent Michael Kitchen as narrator, what could be better? I am concentrating my notes more on the audio set than the actual story because I now realise that Mr Dibdin has a huge following and his books are well reviewed on Amazon.

The boxed set is very nice and sturdy with all 8 CDs sliding smoothly on a central spindle (tons better than those perspex folding things). Unfortunately, it wasn't very long before Michael Kitchen's narration began to grate on my nerves - I was gratified to see that a previous reviewer also found him a-bit-too-precise-and-slow in his speech - the description of the rail yard at the start of the book seemed to go on forever. Mr Kitchen alternated this clipped style of narration with occasional bursts of rushed, almost galloping recital. It spoilt the book for me because I found it very irritating and I really rate Michael Kitchen as an actor.

The story was good, an Italian police detective, a dead body in a freight train, Mafia honour etc. and - I feel a bit mean saying this - I would probably have enjoyed it far more with a different narrator - Samuel West, for example, who did an excellent job with Brighton Rock. I found it really hard to concentrate on the story with wanting to scream at Mr Kitchen 'stop it, put a bit of life in it!'. I have given this 4 stars based on the nice boxed set and the storyline and I would have given it a 5 star had Mr Kitchen narrated it less-like-a-barrister-trying-to-prove-a-point.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blood Rain - not a bad story, not sure about the audio book, 1 Feb 2011
By 
Fraser the Frank Fish "paul m" (Benfleet) - See all my reviews
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I don't normally go for audiobooks, having previously struggled with and lost to Robert Powell's narration of Frederick Forsyth's "The Afghan", but spending a lot of time on the train and in the car over the past week I thought I'd give this a try. Until the recent BBC series I had not heard of Aurelio Zen, but having seen the TV series you get a bit of a feel for the characters and visualisation is easier.

Blood Rain is Michael Dibdin's seventh Zen book so perhaps not the best place to join the series, but having seen the TV series I had a bit of an idea of the characters, and this instalment sees the eponymous detective despatched to Sicily for a somewhat spurious job, which unsurprisingly leads to a run in with the Mafia. Dibdin creates a sense of complexity, confusion and violence that is stereotypical of Southern Italy. The plot has several strands but some of the links are a bit tenuous, although you'll often find that in books of this type such as Dexter's Morse. If I was to compare this to another detective series it would probably by the Robert Wilson's Javier Falcon series which is set in Portugal and has similarly complex and overlapping plots.

The audiobook itself comes as 8 CDs, each about an hour long, and is narrated Michael Kitchen who does a good job. However, at 8 hours and listening being a more passive activity than reading, I did find myself drifting and occasionally had to go back as I felt I'd missed something important.

Overall, I'll give it 4 stars for the story. I considered marking it down to 3 stars as its very long and sometimes difficult to follow, but I decided against that as it probably just my personal take on audiobooks.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars NOT A GREAT PLOT BUT IT HAS A GREAT NARRATOR, 31 Jan 2011
By 
Helpless "Helpless" (UK) - See all my reviews
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The audio book starts off well, a decomposed body found in a railway freight wagon. It introduces the characters a female judge, an IT worker who happens to be the `daughter' of the main character a detective Aurelio Zen. The story is set in Sicily with the obligatory Mafia connections and the back drop of mafia violence.

The story starts off in a very promising way, it feels sharp and the narrator Michael Kitchen is very good. In fact it is the narrator that makes the story better than it actually is. It is a pleasure to listen to his voice.

There are 8 CD's for this unabridged version (complete book) and it runs over approximately 9 hours.

There are several occasions when the story begins to meander about, especially when it describes a certain developing relationship. You will have to use quite a bit of artistic licence to make certain human character traits believable. There are also a few connections between characters that are little tenuous to say the least.

Although the story progresses at a reasonable pace in the beginning, it then slows to a crawl and that is where it disappoints. The ending just does not gel as it should.

5 stars for the narrator Michael Kitchen. He makes the audio book better that it is.

3 stars for the story because it needs a lot of artistic licence the plot is not great.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, mysterious, beautiful, and scary, 21 Jun 2000
This review is from: Blood Rain (Aurelio Zen 07) (Paperback)
This is by far the darkest of Dibdin's remarkable mysteries, with deaths impersonal and very personal. The very title is indicative of the detective's state of mind, as in rapid succession his mother and his adopted daughter die; and his own classic surrealistic fugue experiences as a result of those personal losses are the best I've read in fiction. At the end the detective himself is blown up by the Mafia-government conspiracy known only as the Third Level --- except that, Dibdin being a Sherlock Holmes fan, even the death of the detective may not be forever. Dibdin's morbid preoccupations never get in the way of the narrative, which flows quickly and with a kind of compulsive inevitability. In his usual fashion he plays games with the attentive reader (he has an endless set of metaphors for describing silences, for example). And the bad guys DO get it in the end, all except for the Third Level, of course...
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mob-handed, 5 Jun 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Blood Rain (Aurelio Zen 07) (Paperback)
Is Zen alive or dead? The ending of the latest mystery sees our world-weary Venetian detective in exile in Sicily. No sooner can you say Godfather than his daughter has been murdered by the Mafia and he is hellbent on revenge. All the best elements of the Zen collection is here: Zen at his most cynical and, still sexy after all these years - and the ending is more ambigious and intriquing than any other of the Zen novels. With his daughter and his mum dead, his love life deader than either of them, has Zen got anything left to live for? One disappointing element is that the book is not as rich in Italian cooking as Cabal, Dead Lagoon, The Long Finish, Cosi Fan Tutte or Vendetta - when, apart from Zen, the tastiest things in the book were the menus of the restaurants that Zen frequented.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars First time and last time Dibdin, 14 April 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Blood Rain (Hardcover)
Alan Simpson hits the nail on the head with his review of Blood Rain above...it's a shame the novel itself isn't half as good as that review. I was a first time Dibdin reader and yes there was much to enjoy in this book. Not least the evocative descriptions of Sicily - a place I have visted a number of times. If you are looking for well drawn characters and a good plot however, this isn't the book for you. I was left with an empty feeling once I'd finished reading Blood Rain..is that it? I asked. Even three quarters of the way through the book I was still in that "hmm ok he's setting the scene" mode and expecting intricate twists and turns and sub plots which would turn this into a decent read...but I was disappointed. I thought it was going to be a detective/crime novel..but it could have been the back of a cereal packet. Aurelio Zen's detective prowess is limited to a basic understanding of what the weak characters around him tell him or show him. So, goodbye Michael Dibdin...that's the first and last time I waste my time on one of your books.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Zen and the art of long-winded descriptions, 9 Feb 2011
By 
Love Books "Jessie" (Durham, England) - See all my reviews
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Sorry to say that although the production and presentation of the audio version of this story are excellent, I found Michael Kitchen's fast - and then slow - and then fast again - style of narration incredibly irritating and I thought the story was depressing, dull, over-written and not particularly clever.

I thought I was going to love this as I enjoy audio-books, I've been to Sicily a few times and love the place, I enjoy a good detective story and am a particular fan of some existing, enigmatic Italian crime-fighters, in particular Donna Leon's Brunetti and Camilleri's Sicilian charmer Montelbano. So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet a new Italian detective in a story based in Sicily via an audio book! Woo hoo! I thought I was in for a real treat.

Sadly not. I respect Michael Kitchen as an actor, his pronunciation of Italian words was excellent and I think if the story had been stronger, and more enjoyable, I wouldn't have noticed his actory stye of narration so much.

The story starts well enough with a body being found in a freight-train carriage that's been left on a railway siding. The body may, or may not be the son of one of Sicily's mafia clans. The murder is being looked into by a female judge who is already receiving round-the-clock protection because her life is deemed to be at risk from the mafia. The two other main characters are Aurelio Zen and the woman who may or may not be his daughter, who is installing a new computer system in the judicial offices.

So far so good. But from there on in it's all downhill. The story is actually very weak, as another reviewer said, you could have written the main points of the plot on the back of a cereal packet. I could even have forgiven that if the characters had been likeable, but they aren't. Zen is, to be frank, boring. He has all the charisma of a slapped bottom, doesn't like or get on with anyone, and seems fated to see the worst in everything. He's not a charming misanthrope, just miserable. And somehow this book manages to make Sicily, which for all its faults is one of the most beautiful, vibrant, colourful, lively places on the planet, seem dull and unendingly ugly. Where Montelbano, even on his bad days, enjoys the women, the sounds of the sea, the smells of the city and especially his food, Zen derives no pleasure from anything. And his description of eating mozarella has put me off it for life. There wasn't a single decent meal in the whole book!!! What's more, Zen doesn't even solve anything. He just reacts to situations.

The last quibble is with Dibdin's incredibly over-written descriptions which pad out the story but not in a good way. By the time I reached to the point where Zen is in a taxi and ponders that Roman taxi drivers are always either sullen or boringly over-talkative, I had a horrible feeling that we were going to hear every word the taxi driver said during the journey - and I was right.

Sorry but I can't recommend this.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zen and the Art of Dibdin-by-Numbers, 24 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Blood Rain (Aurelio Zen 07) (Paperback)
Those of us who prefer good writers to keep breaking new ground, rather than start series novels, were becoming disappointed by Michael Dibdin. His last three books, including this one, were part of his Aurelio Zen series, which is not a problem in itself, but did make us fear he was going to cease publication of the one-off thrillers ("Dirty Tricks", "The Tryst", "Dark Spectre" et al) which are such a treat.
The ending of "Blood Rain" - by saying so I hope I am not giving too much away - puts paid to that fear.
As someone who does not read much crime fiction, I do not know whether this is a good example of the genre, and I have to judge it by normal literary standards. I do know that Dibdin is a respected writer, and that is not without reason - the writing itself is faultless, without a single infelicity or cliché.
The plot, however, does not stand up so well. I haven't read the previous Zen novel ("A Long Finish") so I do not know whether his putative daughter was introduced as a character before now. If she was not, and his simply been brought into this book as a dispensable character and neat plot link, then shame on Dibdin. (Shades here of Star Trek syndrome - watch out for the anonymous crew member beamed down with the regulars - he's sure-fire alien fodder.) Similar curses for his two-dimensional portaits of ageing Mafiosi, which owe more to The Simpsons' Fat Tony than to Don Corleone.
If quality crime writing is supposed to be elevated above the Agatha Christie jigsaw-puzzle level, then that elevation must take place by dint of style, characterisation, ideas - all the other things normal novels are presumed to have to begin with. Dibdin, as said, has style, but Zen's characterisation has no depth whatever and it beggars belief that some critics (cited on the back cover) really believe he is the best detective around. If so I am not missing much. We are given no insight whatever into Zen's reaction to the death of his mother and murder of his "daughter" in this book, except that he is, well, slightly curious to discover whodunnit.
Perhaps this is the idea, the characterisation - that contrary to stereotype, Zen is an Italian with no passion whatsoever. Dibdin, sadly, does not extend his reputation a jot with this book, and indeed reverses it somewhat. If this was the first book of his I had read, I wouldn't bother trying him again. He does nothing to break the stereotype of crime writing as a second rate craft.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story , pleassure to listen, 5 Mar 2011
By 
A. J. Sudworth "tonysudworth" (UK) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed this - the reader for this is Michael Kitchen and the crisp diction he has is perfect for the audio book - its really easy to make this out even in the car
The story is set in Sicily and although its the last Auerilio Zen story the only oddity is that the currency is still the lira, not the Euro
I don't want ot give away any of the plot as I've been taken to task for this before, but suffice to say that the plot is , as ever, complex and absolutely NOTHING is as it seems
All in all a great story , particularly good at getting across the beauty of Sicily and the self contained approach of the native who seem to be Italian on sufferance.
At least as good as Cabal for a plot - and as I say a pleasure to listen to
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Undiluted Pleasure, 4 Feb 2011
By 
P. G. Strachan (Glasgow) - See all my reviews
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The television series had kind of stamped on my enthusiasm for Aurelio Zen but I'm all fired up again after listening to this. Despite looking gorgeous the telly Zen is a much less complex beast than Dibdin's creation and the real pleasure of his books, for me, has always been the political backdrop. I know they do the politics on the TV but given the constraints of time it's necessarily a simplistic interpretation. As for the reading....Michael Kitchen's voice is perfect for the role. He has the sort of icy, world-weary detachment that the tale and it's hero demand. And there's something in his almost lazy pace that I found really evocative of Sicily (that sounds pretty pseudish but knowing what I mean and typing what I mean are two different things). Anyway...loved it....looking forward to the next one now...bring it on.
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Blood Rain (Aurelio Zen 07)
Blood Rain (Aurelio Zen 07) by Michael Dibdin (Paperback - 5 Aug 2004)
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