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Blood Rain: An Aurelio Zen Mystery (Aurelio Zen Mysteries) Hardcover – March 28, 2000

38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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Penzler Pick, May 2000: Dibdin's six Aurelio Zen novels (beginning with Ratking, which won the 1988 Golden Dagger Award) are as vividly Italian as if this English writer had never strayed far from the Via Veneto, despite the fact that he has, in fact, been expatriated for several years now to the Pacific Northwest. His hero, a battle-weary but still morally engaged Roman police investigator, is one of the more elegantly vulnerable characters in the genre, a figure who resembles Nicolas Freeling's Inspector Van der Valk in his ability to bring triumph to situations and yet never have them seem like victories. Moreover, like Van der Valk, Zen's greatest talent seems to be for making new enemies among his colleagues.

In Blood Rain, Zen has been exiled to Sicily under the guise of acting as a sort of watchdog, observing a recently reestablished anti-Mafia taskforce. By the nature of the locale--Sicily makes its own rules--the fact that the work of this commission will inevitably be compromised seems clear. But where the cracks in the system will reveal themselves is harder to figure out until, of course, it's too late. Distracted by his dying mother back in Rome and by the island's perverse feuds and even stranger loyalties, and paying not quite enough attention to the professional travails of his beautiful adopted daughter, Carla, a computer specialist, Zen travels his usual idiosyncratic route to a crime's resolution. As always, he is most intrigued by the ambiguities of the situation--and is doomed to be the sacrificial scapegoat.

Dibdin seems to be incapable of writing a bad book, and the Zen novels are his best work. Blood Rain causes the reader to gasp frequently in genuine surprise, as well as in admiration for the way Dibdin accomplishes his effects. The intensity of these sensations is something to be grateful for, since most books these days, even with their ability to shock, make us feel so little. --Otto Penzler

From Booklist

Dibdin's early Aurelio Zen novels (Ratking, Vendetta, Cabal, Dead Lagoon) established the Rome policeman as perhaps the quintessential world-weary European cop: trapped in a corrupt organization, willing to ride with it, but unable to keep himself from antagonizing the bureaucrats around him. What these books deliver is a uniquely hard-edged, no-holds-barred cynicism--light years from the squishy idealism lurking beneath the hard-boiled exteriors of most American detectives. Then the tone of the series changed dramatically, as Dibdin sent Zen on road trips, first to Naples (Cosi Fan Tutti) and then to Piedmont (A Long Finish). In these provincial settings, Zen took on an almost-comic persona; the hard edge was still detectable but only beneath a veneer of opera buffa. This time Dibdin is on the road again, posted to Sicily, but in the heart of organized crime the comic tone disappears, and the world-weary cynicism returns with a vengeance. Zen's nominal assignment, spying on the State Police's anti-Mafia operation for the rival Interior Ministry, is another example of corruption at work, and soon enough, he blunders into a lethal crossfire of power-hungry politicians, bureaucrats, and crime bosses. When his mother dies a suspicious death in Rome, and the woman he considers his daughter is killed in Sicily, Zen must ask himself a familiar question: Will finding the truth only make matters worse? Dibdin has devised all sorts of ironic approaches to this fundamental question, but his answers always amount to yes and no. This time the ambiguity takes on a new and even darker twist, as we are left to ponder whether the surprise ending transforms Zen's last words ("At least we're alive") into the bitterest of ironies. Crime fiction at its multifaceted best. Bill Ott

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Product Details

  • Series: Aurelio Zen Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (March 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375409157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375409158
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,838,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on July 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By mrpennysworth on May 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Blood Rain" is the seventh in Michael Dibdin's incredibly literate Aurelio Zen series (following "Ratking", "Cabal", "Vendetta", "Dead Lagoon", "Cosi Fan Tutti" and "A Long Finish"). Dibdin, an Englishman transplanted to Seattle, has obviously lived in Italy (which makes him an Anglo-Seatitalian, I suppose). Through the genre of detective novels, he is giving us a virtual travelogue of the "spirit" of Italy. In Venice ("Dead Lagoon"), it was a novel of ghosts and of psyches haunted by history. In Naples ("Cosi Fan Tutti"), it was opera buffa. In Piedmont ("A Long Finish"), it was a novel of custom and tradition. "Cabal" split between the spiritual (the Vatican) and the secular (Milan). Now "Blood Rain" takes us to Sicily where Zen encounters conundrums, elaborate and secretive games played out to the death, with no possible solution save the irony of time and circumstance. Here, Dibdin juxtapositions the death of Zen's mother, whom Zen loves, with the death of his daughter, whom he barely knows but is blood, with the death of a stranger, whom he must investigate in the name of justice. Zen tries to make sense of these by threading them into his investigation, but in the end they are simply too cloaked in secrets, be they political, Mafia or metaphysical. Through all of these novels, Aurelio Zen is the quintessential Italiano, going with the flow, nonchalant and unchagrined, solving mystery after mystery with seemingly no effort at all. Each one of these novels is an invitation to sip a Campari by a fountain on some piazza in some village or town and to watch the comings and goings of those utterly fascinating Italians. I have traveled there many times, and Dibdin transports me back with each new novel. This is a series well worth hopping aboard.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By S. Wheeler on March 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I discovered Michael Dibdin only recently and have eagerly devoured all his books. I especially like the Aurelio Zens. These books are so much more than mysteries--they're about politics, culture, human nature, and that student of same, Zen himself. This latest does not disappoint. From Rome, to Venice, to Naples, Zen has worried about being sent to Sicily. Once he gets there, his worst fears are confirmed. Zen tries to stay out of the way, but fate has other things in mind for him.
The mood and tone in Blood Rain is intense, personal and sad. Some of the scenes are distinctly dreamlike, a quality that persists right to the end.
An excellent read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By jack olsen on April 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Blood Rain" is crime fiction raised to the level of fine art by a brilliant British author whose work must be making Wilkie Collins and A. Conan Doyle smile in their graves. "Blood Rain" is richly textured, lyrical, poetic, quirky, scary as hell and as redolent of Dibdin's beloved Italy as though each page had been sprayed with a fine mist of Gocce di Tartufo Bianco. What a shame that such powerful work must be marketed as genre fiction. Nothing on the bestseller lists exceeds this fine book in mystery, finesse and narrative power. Five stars are not enough.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on May 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Eschewing the humor of his last few outings for the darker cynicism of earlier books, Michael Dibdin's latest politically driven Aurelio Zen mystery finds the Italian police detective exiled to Sicily, assigned as liaison between Rome and the independent Mafia investigation team - a spy, in other words. His adopted daughter, Carla, has also been assigned to Catania to install a new computer system for the Mafia investigators.
Haltingly forging a relationship with Carla, Zen is drawn into a case involving a decomposed body found in a sealed railroad car, which may or may not be the scion of a once-powerful Mafia family, while Carla discovers some intriguing anomalies in the new computer system and strikes up a relationship with a judge surrounded by bodyguards.
Zen, trying as always to duck the notice of the political powers, attempts to protect Carla and keep both of them out of the loop. To no avail.
Dibden's ("Vendetta," "A Long Finish") atmospheric writing, enigmatic characters and a plot filled with ghastly surprises and murky, dangerous undercurrents make this an affecting, powerful novel.
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