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66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Start of Zen series
Zen is in many ways a classic fictional dectective - middle aged, a loner, problems with relationships and authority. The Italy described is realistic, even in some of the later novels that are more ironic and playful. The characters are more memorable than is usual in dectective stories; suspects appear to have lives beyond their involvement in the events. As with many...
Published on 19 May 2006 by Genly Ai

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not at his best here
I like the way Dibdin writes and how he immerses the reader into Italy as he relates his Zen tales.

This time, though, it was very slow going. The book was also populated with too many people to remember and the mystery element was very light.

It was a very wordy read at times with too many pages neither advancing the plot, nor adding any...
Published 7 months ago by johnverp


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66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Start of Zen series, 19 May 2006
This review is from: Ratking (Zen) (Paperback)
Zen is in many ways a classic fictional dectective - middle aged, a loner, problems with relationships and authority. The Italy described is realistic, even in some of the later novels that are more ironic and playful. The characters are more memorable than is usual in dectective stories; suspects appear to have lives beyond their involvement in the events. As with many of the best crime writers, there is always a sense of things just out of vision, matters involving the rich and powerful that are handled in other ways. Not in a 'conspiracy theory' sense, the matters may be more squalid and banal than dangerous, but just because they know people. These are excellent books all round.

Although it is not really necessary to read the novels in order, doing so gives a much better understanding of Zen's evolving relationships with women, family, friends and employers as well as the changing political and cultural landscape of modern Italy.

Ratking unravels the dense knot of relationships binding members of a wealthy family in Perugia where Zen is sent to investigate a kidnapping. He quickly gets lost both in the labrynthine streets of the old city and the lies that the family tell to him and to one another.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Detective & His Country, 23 Aug. 2011
By 
Michael Field "Mikes Headroom" (Somewhere in England) - See all my reviews
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When I watched the TV version of Zen, I thought that it perfectly captured both the feeling of Italy and the understated personality of the man.

It is, though, deliberately different from the books.

On the page, Zen is noticeably less suave and the delivery a little less glib than on the screen. To the credit of Rufus Sewell, this doesn't necessarily make his portrayal of Zen any less convincing. In both the book and on TV, the sepia cast of Italy's less romantic side is equally brilliant.

Having read Cabal as well as Ratking, I think the Zen novels get better as they go along. Dibdin has a direct style but insists on taking you through both the cynical but sure-instincted motivation of the detective while carrying forward a plot which is equivocal yet forceful.

It is probably difficult to concentrate on if you don't have much time but very rewarding when you become immersed in it. On that basis, the further you get into the series, the more rewarding it will get and I certainly intend to try. Thoroughly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ratking, 14 Jun. 2012
By 
Ragnar - See all my reviews
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This is the first in the series of novels featuring Aurelio Zen, a detective from Venice who, in the course of his career, investigates crimes in many parts of Italy. Here, although he is living in Rome at the time, he is sent to Perugia to investigate the kidnapping of a rich business man, Ruggiero Miletti.

The main focus of the plot appears to be fierce internal rivalries within the Miletti family, several of whom leave almost everything to be desired. Despite many obstacles, Zen eventually figures out why and by whom the kidnapped man is murdered shortly after his release by the kidnappers.

But just as important in this book is the portrayal of Italian society - for example, the pressures brought to bear by the rich on those who might stand in their way, or the jobs-for-life regime prevailing in the Italian public sector. And also, as in the United States, the self-interested moves made by certain public prosecutors. In this society nothing is straightforward and few things are as they seem.

The book is unusual in that it begins with a series of dialogues, but it sets a high standard in the quality of its writing which Dibden was to maintain in later books.
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The man can do no wrong, 17 Dec. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Ratking (Zen) (Paperback)
I usually steer away from books which are described as "another novel featuring ............." but not this series. Aurelio Zen has a stupid name but is probably the most realistic policeman you'll find. He's no angel but he gets the job done. All the books featuring Aurelio Zen are a great read, easy to get into, thrilling from the start and a central character whom one grows to love.Basically, read anything you can get your hands on by Michael Dibdin, you won't be disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to the series, 20 Jan. 2013
By 
A. C. Howard (Norfolk, UK) - See all my reviews
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I first became aware of the Zen police stories through the 3 part televison series and wanted to see what the original stories were like.
"Ratking" is the first in the collection and whilst there are similarities, the books (as usaul) provide a far more rounded and in depth analysis of the main charcters and the story in general.
I will admit to picturing Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen whilst reading, but this didn't spoil the story, if anything, his slightly hang-dog, world weary stoicism helped me picture the worlld he was inhabiting.
I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about Zen and the machinations of Italian politics and how it affects the policeman's daily lot.
Off to buy the next in the series.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ratking, 23 April 2011
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Mr. D. Mellalieu "Mr Mell" (England, Cumbria) - See all my reviews
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I was drawn to this book as I enjoyed the "Zen" tv series. The book is only vaguely similar to the tv version and I enjoyed reading it. I have visited Rome on several occasions and can feel the athmosphere and the temperament of the Italian people trough this book. A Very Good Read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great story by Michael Dibdin, 18 Dec. 2012
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This book will appeal to all lovers do quirky characters. Paints a great picture of Italians and the way they think. It's a very good read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The first in a wonderful series, 22 Mar. 2015
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ratking (Aurelio Zen 01) (Paperback)
Michael Dibdin first book about Aurelio Zen was published in 1988 and in its opening we first meet the detective Chief Commissioner on a train to Rome caught up in a robbery. Much later in the book we learn that Zen has been transferred to an administrative position in the Ministry of the Interior because his peripheral involvement in investigating the kidnapping and killing of Aldo Moro in 1978 was judged inappropriate by certain politicians.

Zen is seconded to Perugia to take charge of the investigation into the kidnapping of Ruggiero Miletti, head of a global electronics firm, who has been missing for 6 months. In a brilliant introductory chapter we see how personal contacts between the wealthy, civil servants and the police put this secondment in place, and that Zen is chosen simply because he is available. The lack of progress made by the local police means that Zen’s arrival is greeted with little enthusiasm by his new colleagues or by members of the Miletti family who are motivated to pay the ransom. The death of the lawyer negotiating with the kidnappers on behalf of the family causes the investigation to be stepped up and then it becomes apparent that all may not be as it first seems.

Zen, divorced and with an aged mother living in Rome, has to face the troublesome Miletti family, the lack of cooperation from his police colleagues and self-serving lawyers, and his American girlfriend, a divorcée, who is much keener than him to make their relationship more permanent. It is clear that Zen’s period of office bureaucracy has taken the edge off his investigatory skills and for much of the book he reacts to events with increasing irritation; only in the last third do we see him getting on top of the case.

Dibdin’s writing is very stylish, whether it relates to the evocative descriptions of Perugia and its rural hinterland, the many characters or the plotting. Perugia is steeped in political, judicial and economic corruption, and few people that Zen has to deal with are able or willing to tell the truth. Zen is a character that the reader can engage with, through his very human flaws and his determination to identify the kidnappers and killers, who may or may not be the same people, even when his secondment comes to an end. In this first book, Dibdin establishes Zen’s peripatetic professional life and the absence of a permanent and fulfilling personal relationship.

Zen, of course, is at the heart of the book and his complex character grows across its pages through insights into his thinking and reminiscences of his past, as well as though his interactions with people involved in the investigation and the Miletti family, all of whom have secrets to hide. One understands completely how powerless Zen is to affect the meandering nature of his career. Politically, socially and culturally he seems to lack the necessary contacts and ability to improve his position. However, this is the first book in the series and so Dibdin leaves many aspects of his background to mine in subsequent books.

Dibdin is strong on Italy and Italian life, emphasising the mutual dislike of Italians from North and South; Rome and Romans are held in particular contempt.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dibdin at his peak, 28 May 2013
By 
Mr. S. Dillow (Kent) - See all my reviews
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If you are new to the Aurelio Zen series of books, start at the beginning with Ratking. Here, you will see every facet of Dibdin's fascinating creation, Aurelio Zen. One thing I always want from my fictional policemen / detectives is from them to be human. That means being fallible, vulnerable, erratic and every emotion in between. You get that is spades with Ratking. Zen is roped back into active service from the sidelines having stepped on the wrong toes and blotted his copybook with his paymasters. You will see from an early stage that Zen has a formidable intellect but that he is also not above taking short cuts to achieve his ends and that he has very clear ideas as to how to play both ends against the middle. Ratking, more than any other Zen book, shows our hero being played by multiple parties. The fact that he manages to achieve his own objectives regardless, is testament to the quality of Dibdin's writing and an early sign that Zen is nobody's fool.
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Matryoshka Mystery, 22 Feb. 2003
By 
taking a rest - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ratking (Zen) (Paperback)
Instead of those wooden dolls that nest one inside the other, Michael Dibdin creates a story line, which offers not only a variety of possible solutions, but also an unknown number of suspects and motives. And just like the dolls I mention, until you open the final one, you don't know how many there are, or what finally lies in the nest's core.

I have read the bookends of the Aurelio Zen series by this talented author, firstly his newest "Blood Rain", and the inaugural book in the series "Ratking". Although I cannot yet comment on the installments that reside between these two books, unlike some ongoing character based novels, the last was as good as the first.

One of Mr. Dibdin's great talents is his ability to sustain the unknown, or the uncertainty of the solution to his books to the very end. He does not use crude blind alleys or other cliché slights of hand with his pen, rather he brings the reader along with Aurelio, seeing what he sees, but not limiting the reader to only what the Inspector may feel. There is no blatant misdirection, which by definition fools no one; Mr. Dibdin is much more subtle. In, "Ratking", he constructs a Gordian Knot, of rat tails/tales, and unlike the Ratking the book describes, he unravels his construct with a self deprecating flair.
Unlike other authors he does not throw open a curtain and hope for the expected gasp, he entertains throughout his work. His novels are wonderfully complete, and amazingly brief. His stories are not based on one clever thought that is then pulled and stretched to novel length. His stories are finished, and written with a disciplined hand.

This author has no need for gimmicks; he is a master with a pen, a wordsmith of the first order.
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Ratking (Aurelio Zen 01)
Ratking (Aurelio Zen 01) by Michael Dibdin (Paperback - 17 Feb. 2011)
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