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VINE VOICEon 14 May 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I listened to "Blood Rain" on audio CD (8 to be precise), read by Michael Kitchen. It felt like Michael Kitchen took the first CD to warm up, his clipped English and occasional sighs being very off-putting and very out of place in that first CD. He seems a strange choice to read Aurelio Zen stories. However, after the first CD, his reading style felt better and the story flowed well. In fact, I would say that the story was very good - well written and interesting, with an unexpected turning point in the midst of the story. I found this intelligent but easy listening, and it had me gripped. And then ... the ending. What can I say? Well, after eight CDs, the last few seconds were hopeless - completely predictable (to the point of semaphored beforehand), disappointing after the good writing earlier on, not well read, and to cap it all for audio listeners - there was no silence at the end of CD 8 to digest the story before (in my car's CD player at least) the CD looped back to the beginning again and carried on playing. That last point may seem very minor, but it was annoying - I barely had time to think "was that it?" before my thought was interrupted by the start of the CD again. Twenty seconds of silence at the end is not a lot to ask for...

So, to summarise, eight CDs, first one not brilliantly read, but after that well read and with a good story, all capped off by a disappointing ending. I'd still recommend it (with caveats), but think it might be better in printed form than read by Michael Kitchen.
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on 26 January 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've always been a bit sniffy about audiobooks: unless the listener suffers from poor/no eyesight, then what's the point in them? To the average buyer I would pose the question: `Why don't you just read the book, it's GOT to be more enjoyable!' To which they usually say: `Oh, I can listen to it while in the car, or while I'm jogging', or other variations on these themes. This has always baffled me because, if they're driving and feel like throttling a fellow road user every two minutes, how can they possibly concentrate on a complex plot, or fully appreciate a finely nuanced character? My assertion is simple: they can't.

Anyway, rant over for now. Let me begin my actual review by saying that I'm a big fan of good crime fiction and I've read and enjoyed quite a few of Mr. Dibdin's books previously - including this one. The series as a whole is tautly written, with Mr. Dibdin not feeling the need to produce 500+ page books just because the market demands it. Each novel effortlessly serves-up its fair share of surprises and is exactly the length it needs to be. As a (top-class) writer he brings various Italian cities, islands and general locations vividly to life, revealing their seamier undersides; this is a main strength of his.

`Blood Rain' is a middling (in terms of quality) and a mid-period Zen novel which is perhaps lighter in tone than the darker, earlier books in the series. Zen is sent to Sicily on a liaison job, and a woman who may be his daughter is also there. Naturally Dibdin develops both of these plot strands - and others - thoroughly to produce a satisfying tale.

This audiobook provides a thankfully unabridged rendering of the novel, which means no adapter has over-simplified the text, or at worst, completely butchered it. And I have to admit, that at just over a tenner for 8 CDs, the package provides superb value for money.

That fine actor Michael Kitchen gives an excellent, characterful reading; he's always worth listening to and he brings the prose to life. But would it not have been better to have had a reader with a natural Italian accent to bring more flavour?

I'm afraid my marking for this product must reflect my prejudices: I preferred the print version as I like to imagine the narrator's voice in my own head. However, if you like audiobooks (and fair play to you if you do), then I can seriously recommend this to you, and you can add an extra star to my mark.
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VINE VOICEon 6 August 2012
This is the seventh in the series of novels featuring Aurelio Zen, a detective from Venice. Each novel finds Zen in a different part of Italy, in this case Sicily. As might be expected, the Mafia features here. But the Mafia, as described in the book, is not so much a single organisation as a group of competing families or clans who communicate with each other by messages. Sometimes these messages seem to be clear - for example, cutting a leg off the competition with a chainsaw and delivering it direct to their doorstep.

There are two problems with this. The first is being sure you know who is actually sending the message: is it who you would expect, or someone else trying to dupe you into thinking it is who you would expect? The second problem is working out what the message really means - which is hard enough anyway, but twice as hard if you aren't sure who sent it.

This novel is unusually full of messages and because Zen isn't a native of Sicily he is, by his usual standards, unusually inept in detecting and interpreting them. This places him in great danger from which he is rescued by others or by accident. On one occasion he is rescued by football fans and on another by an earthquake which begins at exactly the right time to deter his attackers. (How likely is that?) The book ends with an explosion (another message) and, but for the fact that there are four more books in the series, it isn't at all clear that Zen survives it.

The book has Dibden's usual virtues. It is beautifully written, with some excellent descriptions of scene and character. The plot is complex but perhaps overly subtle: there is so much that Zen doesn't fully understand that the same goes for the reader. The mood is also unusually sombre given two deaths half way through which affect him personally.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 16 February 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
NB - Amazon have unhelpfully included the reviews of the printed book and the unabridged 8CD audio book adaptation on the same page. This review refers to the audio book.

Blood Rain sees Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen exiled to Sicily where he finds his promised promotion is in reality just a place to keep him out of sight. Despite the initial promise of an investigation in the murder of a prominent up and coming scion of a Mafia family in an abandoned train's cattle truck, it soon becomes apparent that no-one - not the police and especially not the suspected unidentified victim's family wants to investigate it, and for much of the novel that's true of Dibdin as well. Much of the first half of the novel occupies itself with Zen's new surroundings and with his adopted daughter, who's own career in law enforcement seems to come down to fending off the amorous advances of her superiors and finding herself the apple of a female judge's eye. The mystery is forgotten for much of the book as Dibdin briefly essays the inertia the bureaucracy and competing departments in the police create inbetween pen portraits of people and places, sometimes getting carried away with a cabbie's chatter or a judge's lengthy account of her mother's unhappy marriage that's longer than many a short story, at others showing off his research by awkwardly inserting historical and geographical references into casual conversation. Dibdin even breaks off a shooting to describe the history of a forgotten olive tree planted to commemorate one of Garalbaldi's victories that gets destroyed. But then this is not a book driven by plot as much as it is by futile gestures and family ties, both oppressive and deluded: everything is related, so nothing can ever be done for fear of how it will affect someone else - even passing on a package creates a slew of moral quandaries and possible disastrous consequences that can only be avoided by finding a way to avoid passing it on without the intended recipient ever finding out there ever was a package.

The result is more of a sporadically interesting drama than a compulsive thriller, and one where the people and the place leave you with more of an impression than the story, though even in that respect it's not entirely successful. It's the kind of book where all too often everything is spelled in detail, even if that requires an experienced detective to suddenly become remarkably naive to give the author licence to do so, and where the characters may tell you - at length - the story of their lives but perversely never come to life. Unfortunately the unabridged audio book adaptation tends to constantly draw you out of the book because Michael Kitchen's delivery is so often quite horrendously distracting: it's not so much a reading as dictation, with place names all but underlined and every other word over-emphasised and almost treated as if it had no relation to those on either side, broken up further by odd pauses that break up the rhythm of a line as if the priority was to get his secretary to avoid making any spelling mistakes in a letter to the local council. You do eventually get used to the odd cadences, but it seems unfortunate gimmick casting - hire a TV copper to read a literary one - that in this case works against the book. Definitely one case where you're better off getting the printed version.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 October 2012
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Michael Kitchen reads this complete, unabridged Aurelio Zen audio CD novel (by bestselling author Michael Dibdin). Inspector Zen has finally received the order he has been fearing all his working life: his next posting is to Sicily, home of the Mafia. The discovery of an unidentified male, left to die locked in a metal railway wagon on a disused siding marks the beginning of Zen's most difficult and dangerous case. The powerful Limoni Mafia family deny it's their missing son, and then things get even nastier as Zen investigates. It's all very atmospheric and even a bit surreal in places as Zen gets into an emotional turmoil. A great story, and I thought generally well read by one of my favourite actors, so 4*. I think I might have preferred to read the paperbook as I could read faster, or have a slightly abridged audio version, as the 8 hours on 8 audio CDs were a bit of a slog to get through - although it did rip easily to the iPod and I also enjoyed listening to it in the car.
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VINE VOICEon 10 February 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I had never heard of Zen until I watched the recent series with Rufus Sewell on TV. I got this expecting `more' of the same quirky story's with a laid back twist.

This you get, up to a point. Michael Kitchen is very good, but he's louder and clearer and I found that slightly disconcerting after Sewell. Also this Zen seems a much older man, and it didn't quite work for me that way. The story line is certainly convoluted with many 'red herrings' and ends with a bang so from that point of view, no change there then but, I found that overall I was disappointed.

I realise that it's perhaps slightly unfair to measure a book, audio even, against a television production and, perhaps if I'd read the book(s) first the feeling of something is missing wouldn't have been as strong.
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on 21 September 2015
As a train-enthusiast, it is a bonus to find Michael Dibdin's seventh Aurelio Zen novel opening with a railway puzzle. Zen wonders what, exactly, constitutes a goods-train that travels over a number of days from Palermo to Catania in Sicily, with a detour on inland tracks and including a delay while paperwork is sorted out, all the while picking up and dropping trucks, one of which, apparently, ends up separated from the others on a siding outside of Catania. The locked truck contains a body, which has been seriously decomposed because of the high summer temperatures. Although the scrawled manifest is deciphered as “Limina” (rather than “limone”), the head of the Liminas – a Mafia family – formally states that the body is not that of his son, who is abroad.

In previous novels Zen moves or is moved around Italy by an immense bureaucracy through which sinister political motives can sometimes be discerned. Somehow, he wins through, though “wins” overstates the degree of success and the degree to which Zen finally knows what has happened. In “Blood Rain” he seems to be at the end of his tether as well as at the end of Italy. Exiled from police headquarters in Rome, Zen is on an ambiguous, partly under-cover, mission in a location that he struggles to understand. Unlike Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano, Zen is definitely not at home in Sicily. If the systemic conundrum of the railway is initially troubling for Zen to the extent that “train” seems to be a less substantial entity than one would think, this is nothing compared with the ghost in the much more intangible machine of a new IT system being installed in the anti-mafia unit based in Catania. One way to appreciate “Blood Rain” is that it is a novel about messages that are misunderstood or sometimes not delivered or delivered to the wrong people.

Aurelio Zen is quite different from other detectives, particularly those that have to continue from novel to novel. He can be diffident but also stubborn; dishonest or at least quite willing to break rules but with some kind of moral compass; unnerved, even frightened, at times, but obsessive in his pursuit of a criminal. That pursuit (in effect, the plot) is convoluted, not least because Zen is often in no position to see clearly, and because political and institutional sources of power play their part in the obfuscation. In its classical form, the detective story invariably re-orders the chronology of events only to straighten things out; in more subversive variants, the account of the events is such that the real order and chronology suffer degrees of damage. Dibdin’s detective novels are at the agnostic end of the genre. But more than this. The tone of an Aurelio Zen novel -- and particularly this one – is also unusual; there are comic, even farcical episodes, as well as more conventionally thrilling and suspenseful ones; and also some episodes, such as when Zen visits his dying mother in hospital, or when there is a timely natural disaster, that are deliberately unrealistic. In the audio version, only Michael Kitchen, an actor whose voice conveys, at once, a degree of diffidence and care, could carry off this unusual novel.

Which is not to say that there aren’t shortcomings, and more, I think, than in the other Zen novels that I have read: the characters of Zen’s putative daughter and the Mafia-hunting judge are awkwardly handled and the former possibly not needed, more a consequence of keeping the series going, refreshing it; the presence of the Mafia carries un unwarranted weight; Zen’s flight is padded out with some silly extras; and readers will have to make their minds up about the exciting conclusion.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 10 January 2011
Another story of Aurelio Zen, Italian police detective. Blood Rain is set in Sicily so we know that it won't be long before Zen is required to do battle with the Mafia. Although in many ways this is a formulaic police procedural Dibdin's work stands head and shoulders above many others because of the quality of his writing.

Zen is fully aware that his attempts at integrity tend to make him a bit of an outsider. But even Zen finds ways of manipulating situations to help things move along for the better. Many of Zen's observations are genuinely funny - he is cynical and a bit world-weary but still bent on doing the right thing. There are several threads to the story. A body has been found in an abandoned railway wagon. All the evidence points to it being a member of the Limoni family - but why do these Mafiosi refuse to accept this? And the young woman who believes herself to be Zen's daughter is working for the police setting up a computer system. She is befriended by a local female judge who is being threatened by criminals.... Sounds like a recipe for trouble, doesn't it?

The plot is well paced and fairly complex. There are ambiguities throughout - in fact right up to the final sentence!

All great fun - and addictive.
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HALL OF FAMEon 13 February 2003
Recently I have found a series of new writers that were unknown to me. I understand the number of books offered on a given day is enormous, but those worth the time it takes to read them are comparatively few.

Some book jackets compare one author to another, as was the case here. I had never heard of Mr. Dibdin or this series of Aurelio Zen mysteries, and if you haven't either, something special by a gifted author awaits your attention.

If you enjoyed the late Mario Puzzo's Sicily, this particular installment, "Blood Rain", is for you. Very little is as it appears the first, second, or third time you read it during this story. Mr. Dibdin has the ability to sustain the uncertainty of the tale's direction and outcome until you literally are at the final page. What you feel you have learned even at that point is still open to question. None of this is done so as to be cliché; no surprise lurks around a corner. One of the skills Mr. Dibdin is so good at is knocking you off your chair when there is absolutely no reason to expect it. The brilliant part is, even though he surprises you, he has laid the basis for his moment, and still you really are stunned. I know it sounds trite, but you will not see the event coming. You may find yourself flipping back a few pages thinking you missed a clue, but don't bother looking; you missed nothing, no pages stuck together. The Author manipulates his readers with subtlety and perhaps a bit of guile.

One other element I enjoyed was the length. The book can be comfortably read in a sitting for it is only as long as it needs to be. Mr. Dibdin does not feel the need to produce 600 pages when 272 will do. He needed 272, no more or less, and you are rewarded for it.

The other 2 ways to find these new writers, you can follow the links of what others have bought on Amazon; you will turn up new authors faster than you may think. The other alternative is to get down on the floor of a bookstore, your face nearly on the carpet. There, if you are lucky you will find these wonderful books. In more ways than one they are holding up many "marquee authors" that are on the top shelves, as foundations are the strength of any sound structure. On the top shelf does not mean top shelf quality. I don't mean to be pretentious; it is just that I am tired of plowing through, clicking through, around and around the latest book with an initial run of millions of copies, to find someone or something new.

Read Mr. Dibdin you will not be disappointed.
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VINE VOICEon 18 March 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I found this a very difficult audio book to follow. It is not so much the plot which is at fault as it is the fact that it is read by Michael Kitchen whose voice is very monotonous. It is akin to listening to a documentary on physics or economics, the voice droning on in the background. Several times I caught myself wondering what I had just missed as the voice of Michael Kitchen just washed over me. I was listening to this on my cd player in the car and found that Michael Kitchens voice was making me feel sleepy! Michael Kitchen needs to stick to acting. The plot itself was slow, although this was perhaps not helped by the poor quality of the narrator who feels he has to emphasise every second word as if we are all a little dim-witted! The story is too descriptive and slow and amounts to nothing of any substance. I probably will not be reading or listening to any more Dibdin novels and certainly will never purchase any audio books narrated by Michael Kitchen.
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