EPS Review #199 - Zen Omnibus

The Aurelio Zen Omnibus: "Ratking", "Vendetta", "Cabal" , by Michael Dibdin, Faber & Faber, 1988 1990 1992, 752pp.

Two different friends recommended these novels with Italian detective Aurelio Zen, and I finally found I copy of the omnibus edition for 2 pounds in a charity shop in Clapham, where P and I went to see Don John (the Don grabbed P to dance on stage at the end). I read all three back-to-back, and liked them. The Italian settings are evocative, and the flawed detective is engaging, for middle-aged males, anyway. Zen is honest, but not all that honest, and a large part of his intellect is necessarily devoted to the political implications of everything he does (this is Italy). I was only disappointed by some typical mystery-story elements like the Crazy Perverted Killer, and the Chase Scene that would Kill any Ordinary Mortal.

Previously, this New Yorker article, whose theme is travelogue crime writing, persuaded me to try Donna Leon's Acqua Alta, set in Venice. It felt too contrived to me and I have not continued the series. Maybe her publishers should issue an omnibus edition. I was not hooked on Patrick O'Brian until I finished the second book. Some things take a while to get going.

While on the topic of mystery novels, I may as well put a boot in for The Cat Who ... stories. I bought a couple for Ross because they feature a Siamese cat, like we have. But I found the story dull. And after reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I was directed by a related Amazon review to The Redbreast, which I read until a cute secretary (with an eidetic memory!) was threatened, whereupon I decided I did not need to see her get hurt and let the book drift away under the bed. Call me a wuss, I guess.

Scott wrote: Laura got me some of these for Christmas, and I am enjoying them. I have "Dragon Tattoo" with me, and hope it's good as well.

Paul's friend Rosemary wrote: I really enjoyed both Redbreast (Nesbo) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The latter took me a little time to get into, but it was worth it. Redbreast was a favorite plus I've read other books by the same author. We've read all the Donna Leon books; some were better than others, but the detective and his "associates" were very endearing. The Donna Leon books have different titles for the same books depending, I guess, on where they were published. I've not read any of the Aurelio Zen books, but just ordered one through the library system.

Joe (who first recommended Dibdin to me) wrote: I am disappointed that you did not take to Donna Leone. I have read several of her novels. She generally used them to pump up interest in some contemporary social issue. My hobby is reading detective fiction set in Europe. That is how I content myself between trips there.

Tom wrote: "I did not need to see her get hurt" Um, real life is hard enough, no? Sometimes books are meant to be an *escape* from reality, no? I went for several years where the only movies I would watch were comedies. I still eschew those whose R rating is attributed to violence.

Paul wrote: In non beach books, this guy lives in my nabe and was at our local bookshop, so Jen got me Jamestown , which was very very odd, but could be worth reading if you want something very very odd.