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by Michael Dibdin
Faber and Faber, August 2005
176 pages
ISBN: 0571227759

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

British writer Michael Dibdin has sent his series character Aurelio Zen BACK TO BOLOGNA in this tenth episode of the doughty detective's adventures. Mind, an interview with Dibdin on the Net says the author found Bologna 'spookily uninfested with crime'. Still, he does his best for Zen, the man who made his debut in 1988 with the publication of RATKING.

Dibdin has invented a very vivid cast of characters for this adventure. There is a set of football hooligans who are more than a little relieved when the owner of their favourite team is murdered. After all, he was responsible for eviscerating the team and removing all its spirit. One of the fans, barely tolerated by the remainder but he is rather rich, which can remedy a lot of faults, is Vincenzo Amadori, who shares a flat with student Rodolfo. Rodolfo has a girlfriend, an illegal immigrant who styles herself Princess Flavia of Ruritania.

Vincenzo's wealthy parents hire a private detective, Tony Speranza, an investigator who takes his craft seriously, modelling himself along the lines of the protagonists of hardboiled American detective novels. It is unfortunate that Speranza's abilities do not quite match those of his favoured heroes.

Perhaps the most delightful invention in this novel is the TV singing chef, Romano Rinaldi. He finds himself in a cooking contest with an intellectual, Edgardo Ugo. What the world doesn't know is that Romano can't cook so an off-the-cuff remark from Ugo that hypothesises that possibility hits a raw nerve.

Aurelio Zen's comfortable domestic arrangement with his girlfriend Gemma is becoming disarranged. It doesn't improve when Zen is sent to Bologna to investigate the death of the football entrepreneur and finds himself entangled, to one degree or another, with the eclectic group of characters invented for the occasion.

It's not as though there is any great mystery to be found in this novel. The killer, early on, makes no bones about his responsibility (irresponsibility?) for the killing. To a select few, that is. The richness of this book lies in the wealth of colour of the characters and the humour of the incidents.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, November 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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