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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple, but still good
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...
Published on 8 Aug 2006 by johnverp

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Dibdin
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...
Published on 27 Sep 2006 by Karen Vincent-jones


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Dibdin, 27 Sep 2006
By 
Karen Vincent-jones (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Back to Bologna (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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple, but still good, 8 Aug 2006
This review is from: Back to Bologna (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
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 8 Dec 2005
By 
Brian Harris (Olney, Bucks) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Back to Bologna (Hardcover)
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
This review is from: Back to Bologna (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
2.0 out of 5 stars Getting lazy - a poor latest offering in a great series, 4 Nov 2005
By 
M. Clark "Clarky" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Back to Bologna (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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic by the King., 22 Aug 2009
By 
Keith Andreetti (Lincoln UK) - See all my reviews
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The late Michael Dibdin was simply a king amongst crime writers. Forget the formulaic approach of writers like Donna Leon, each book is unique. It seems to me that some of the more negative reviews published are criticising the fact that the Zen books do not follow a formula. Each book explores the regionality of Italy with extraordinary precision and each is an experiment in a different style. Zen as a character expands, contracts and changes to suit the new game. In 'Back to Bologna' Dibdin pokes gentle fun at Umberto Eco and the 'intellectual' italian novel bringing it face to face with street level realities of italian life. It is also a great story. I think that Dibdin is much underated as a writer and that his worth will be proven by time.
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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
This review is from: Back to Bologna (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
2.0 out of 5 stars Coasting towards retirement - Zen, Dibdin or both...?, 22 Sep 2005
This review is from: Back to Bologna (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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The kind of escapist novel that I really wanted to escape from., 10 Mar 2011
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 likable nor interesting. He may have mitigated this problem in the early novels of the series by convoluted plotting, but eventually he ran out of ideas, or got bored, and then utilised the rather lazy smokescreen of (a) a kaleidoscope of geographical settings (all of which were ideal holiday destinations for his English readers) and (b) silly jokes and increasingly farcical plots.

Back to Bologna is a great example of this. The plot is ridiculous and Zen's participation in it is pretty much peripheral.

What perhaps annoys me most of all is the arrogance and rudeness of the writer who uses a foreign country as a setting for his work for the sole purpose of mocking that country. Really, Mr Dibdin, the only country that an Englishman should be mocking is England. Anything else is a piece of supreme bad manners. The guest should not mock the home of his host.

On page 217 of this book, Dibdin gives an exceedingly thin excuse for the plot of this novel. (Rodolfo's conversation with Ugo about writing a detective novel.) How irritating that he fully recognised that this book is a lame parody and yet still insulted his readers by submitting it to his publisher. Shame on you, Mr Dibdin.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Distinct lack of Zen, 26 Sep 2006
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A short review for a short book. This is the most disappointing and lacklustre Zen novel so far, although referring to it as a Zen novel is tenuous at best because the character cannot feature for more than fifteen percent of the story. Interesting characterisation aside this is a poor addition to the genre.
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Back to Bologna by Michael Dibdin (Hardcover - 4 Aug 2005)
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