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Back to Bologna: An Aurelio Zen Mystery Paperback – September 19, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Gold Dagger–winner Dibdin's fine 10th Aurelio Zen mystery (after 2004's Mesuda), the neurotic ace detective investigates the murder of Bologna millionaire entrepreneur Lorenzo Curti, who was found in his Audi impaled on a Parmesan cheese knife. Curti was not only the owner of Bologna's immensely popular football club but also part of a shady dairy conglomerate suspected of tax evasion. Meanwhile, bumbling PI Tony Speranza checks on the activities of Vincenzo Amadori, a high-flying socialite and soccer fan, whose prominent parents fret about his off-hours activities. In a comical subplot, Amadori's roommate, Rodolfo, a semiotics student, feuds with Edgardo Ugo ("Professor Ego" to his students), who's embroiled in a public cook-off contest with "Lo Chef," the star of a TV food show. This lively escapade casts modern Italy's many social and political problems in an amusing but realistic light. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Dibdin's Aurelio Zen, the ever-cynical, brooding Italian investigator, continues his peregrinations about the country, this time landing in Bologna to oversee a peculiar murder case: the much-hated owner of the local soccer team has been killed, found with a Parmesan knife in his chest. As usual, Zen intends to leave the investigating to the locals--his real reason for coming to Bologna was to avoid his lover and their disintegrating relationship--but, inevitably, he finds himself drawn into the case, which spirals out from the initial murder to encompass an absurd rivalry between a TV chef and an egomaniacal semiotics professor. Dibdin's recent fondness for black comedy is again evident here, as he plays a gang of lager-lout football fans against the follies of academia, the stage-managed world of TV cooking, and Zen's own melancholy, which somehow reflects the larger malaise of Italian culture. This isn't the dark neo-noir with which the Zen series helped redefine European crime fiction (e.g., Blood Rain, 2002), but it's a plenty tasty blend of tragedy and comedy. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (September 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307275884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307275882
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Philip Spriet on December 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I guess the previous reviewers are looking for blood and sensation when they decide to read an "Italian Mystery". Most likely, they just don't understand the real Italian soul. Dibdin does, and his latest novel is an excellent illustration of this. The plot reads as an Italian opera, the characters are as Italian as an espresso coffee, and the absence of real action reminds me of my time spend in Italy (both as a tourist and for work). I have to admit that Dibdin counts on some intellectual snobbism amidst his readers, but it is so obvious that it makes you smile. This book, as most other Dibdins, is not written for the lovers of crime and death, but for the connoisseurs of live. Absolutely recommended for readers that know the difference between the kitsch of a Beaujolais nouveau and the joy of a Barolo
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By H. Schneider on October 26, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Talk about maintaining a few things. Your health. Your relationships. Your job. Aurelio Zen fails to maintain all of them properly, or maybe he doesn't want to. Maybe that's the key. He does not know what he wants, maybe.
This sequel in the Aurelio Zen saga will please Aurelio followers, but may be a bad idea if Dibdin wants to enlarge his own followers community.
It relies too much on the readers knowing what happened earlier.
The title of volume 10 relates to cop Bruno, whom Zen helped getting a transfer back to Bologna out of the wilderness of Southern Tyrole, when Bruno helped Zen in Medusa. But there are other meanings, spelled out later in the story.
Aurelio has managed to become a hypochondriach and upsets lovely but hard-nosed Gemma from two volumes back, who knows most things better. Tough move for Aurelio.
The case itself is of rather minor importance here compared to the antics of our hero as far as his life is concerned. There is a cameo appearance of Umberto Eco, disguised as Edgardo Ugo, known as The Ego, including a satire on semiotics as "science".
There is a minor Berlusconi-like football magnate called Lorenzo Curti, who doubles up as Parmalat scandalist. There is a singing TV cook called Romano Rinaldo, or Lo Chef, who is explicitly compared to Pavarotti, appearance wise.
I.o.w., the novel is overloaded with Italiana, as it should be, and great fun for us Zenistas. Still, I think, MD should try to write his Zen stories a bit more on a stand alone basis.
By the way, there is also one "foreign" element in here, Flava from Ruritania. I had to google that. Very funny.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Carlo Vennarucci on August 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As an avid reader of crime series set in Italy, I eagerly await the next work by the pillars of the genre--Donna Leon, Magdalen Nabb, and Michael Dibdin. Both Leon with BLOOD FROM A STONE and Nabb with THE INNOCENT have delivered top-notch novels in their continuing series this year. Unfortunately, Dibdin fell short with BACK TO BOLOGNA. As is often the case with Dibdin, we have to deal more with Zen's continuing personal and relationship problems than with the crime and its solution. Zen's really a mess this time around. His Lucca-based girlfriend, Gemma Santini, from book #8 is fed up with him and wants to dump him.

Dibdin's new novel is not a mystery or a thriller. However, it is a very cleverly written spoof of the genre and quite comedic. I found it disappointing and not up to par with many of his other Aurelio Zen works.

He starts the book with the introduction of a massive cast of characters on an eventual collision course with each other. His leading characters are a flashy singing TV chef named Romano Rinaldi and a University of Bologna semiotics professor named Edgardo Ugo (as in Umberto Eco). To further the spoof, he names Zen's contact officer at the Bologna questura Salvatore Brunetti. (For you affectionatos--Salvatore is the first name of Nabb's Marshal and Brunetti is the last name of Leon's beloved Venetian Commissario.) Then further on in the book, he introduces a Carabinieri major named Guido Guarnaccia. (Again, for you affectionatos--Guido is the first name of Leon's Commissario and Guarnaccia is the last name of Nabb's Marshal.) Just how far is Dibdin willing to go to get a laugh?

I found the ending predictable with no suspense at all. Dibdin also missed the opportunity to give us a keen insight into the fantastic city of Bologna.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Rockafellow on November 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I previously read RATKING, DEAD LAGOON, A LONG FINISH, and END GAMES by Dibdin, and can say I rate each at least 4 stars -- good reading. But it took me until half-way through BACK TO BOLOGNA and constant referral to previous chapters to figure out what seemed to be happening. I like a complex, imperfect character in a complex story. But I was sorely disappointed by BOLOGNA. Zen is absurdly hypochondriac in recovering from a prior injury, and, unlike the other books mentioned, his intelligence and insight have nothing to do with resolution of this smoking-gun mystery. He merely observes its accidental resolution. And, as interesting as the thought might appear in the abstract, the concept of seemingly un-related but ultimately intersecting stories unfortunately falls flat in this book. I recommended this book to my bookclub before reading it: big mistake!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By egreetham on May 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
Even if you actually read and (even less likely) loved "Name of the Rose," you'll still enjoy Dibdin's farcical sendup of Umberto Eco in the latest adventure of Vice Questore Aurelio Zen, whose love life is in the dumpster as usual. The operatic plot--the collision of a egotistical television cooking star, a soccer team, an academician of semiotics, a romantic young couple direct from "The Prisoner of Zenda," and a witless private investigator in love with the American PIs of the 40s, with the more than usually self-destructive Zen and his soon-to-be former girl friend--is breathtaking. No one captures the dark side of Italy with more gusto and humor than Michael Dibdin.

Mr. Dibdin's recent passing is a real sorrow to those who love his writing--I'm hoping that there might be a novel or two more yet to come.
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