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Cabal: An Aurelio Zen Mystery Paperback – September 12, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Emblematic of the many deceptions and misconceptions upon which the latest stylish Aurelio Zen mystery turn are the layered, radical fashions of a hot new Italian designer named Falco. Introduced in Ratking , Zen is an investigator for Rome's Criminalpol. He is called from the apartment of his mistress, Tania Biacis, when an Italian aristocrat falls to his death from the observation gallery at the top of St. Peter's Basilica. In the tricky position as liaison between the Vatican Curia and Roman police, Zen is willing to confirm the former's explanation that the death was suicide, even though his investigation points to murder. But a second killing, disguised as an accident, and an anonymous letter in the newspapers suggesting the aristocrat's involvement with "a sinister inner coterie" in the Knights of Malta called the Cabal, sets him on a different, tortuously intricate course. Trying to promote his own interests--in particular holding on to the independent, entrepreneurial Tania, who wears Falco designs--Zen interprets the mostly unspoken expectations of the Curia and civil authorities in both Rome and Milan, where he uncovers the puzzle's solution in an Austro-French palazzo belonging to the heirs of the Falcones, a wealthy textile family. The dramatic opening in St. Peter's and its secular echo at the end effectively frame Dibdin's masterful portrayal of the complexities of Zen himself and his ornate, bureaucratic milieu in this demanding, satisfying novel.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Aurelio Zen, Dibdin's equivocal protagonist, investigates the spectacular "suicide" in St. Peter's of a nobleman tainted by financial corruption. In order to save the Vatican embarrassment, Zen overlooks evidence of murder, but after newspapers publish an anonymous tip implicating a mysterious "cabal," he pursues the matter further. Finely detailed surroundings lend authenticity to Zen's investigation of possible Church or underworld deception. Thoroughly Italian in setting and tone, and deeply foreboding, this suitably titled work should appeal to most readers.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 12, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375707700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375707704
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #429,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on September 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Cabal" was the last of the Aurelio Zen mysteries that I had not read. Now that I have, I can state the body of work taken as a whole is great. As in any group of books some are stronger than others, but none will disappoint. About the only complaint I have is that some of the individual works could have been of greater length. Some were perfectly finished in their relatively brief form, but some like "Cabal", could have benefited from having more time to tell their story.
Mr. Dibdin is a great writer, and I have read all but one of his non "Aurelio" books, and they too are worthwhile. I have reviewed them all, so I will minimize general comments here. I read the books out of sequence, and while there were some references to previous books, there was nothing so fundamental that it detracted from whatever book I was reading. I actually started with "Blood Rain" which is the newest of Mr. Dibdin's works.
The series takes place all over Italy, and "Cabal" takes place primarily in Rome with the central event, taking place at The Vatican. In addition to the intrigue that often surrounds stories of this small Country, Mr. Dibdin adds the Knights Of Malta, The Cabal, and centuries old Families of Italy to this mystery. The contemporary world of Italian Fashion, Aurelio girlfriend's moonlighting, and Aurelio's temptations to a darker side when he feels he is loosing his girl, all make for fun reading, although I believe with more time the book could have developed more completely. There was a great deal happening in this book, and it feels as though it was compressed into its final size.
Mr. Dibdin is a great writer, and this series is without qualification reading time well spent. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Diana Faillace Von Behren TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 8, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As poor 50-something Aurelio juggles keeping his life with his new girlfriend, Tania, a secret from his now distressingly mobile mother with the backbiting intrigues that occur on a daily basis at the Criminalpol, he is summoned to the Vatican to assist with the investigation of the murder of a Prince Ludovico Ruspanti, a Knight of Malta, who quite literally tumbled to his death from the basilica's dome. With the tenacity of a pit bull, Zen slowly but surely cuts though the red tape dealings between the separate bureaucracies of the Vatican and Italy, and dodges encounters with the carbaniari, as he lies his way through the riot of events that follow his compliance with the Vatican to allow the Prince's death to be recorded as a suicide. When he unearths the existence of the "Cabal", a secret organization within the Knights of Malta, the snowball of information Zen has gathered begins an enjoyably fast and by no means boring descent into the world of computer hackers, would-be informants encountered during a high-speed train ride and a strange brother and sister duo ensconced in an old and decaying family house in fashionable Milan.

As in the first two Zen novels, Aurelio's gritty acceptance of his world's self-absorbed machinations entitles him to use some less than admirable avenues of manipulation to get to the truth and at the same time make life more comfortable for Zen. The most delightful portions of this installment explores the undercurrent of vulnerabity Zen experiences when he uncovers secret organizations within his own existence--- his mother's world no longer revolves around him, and Tania, busily promoting a mail-order gourmet food business, may be two-timing him. I look forward to Zen's further 'adventures' with his women and compliated life in the Eternal City.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've read a few of Dibdin's Aurelio Zen works and liked this one the least -- I won't give the plot away, but it begins one with one very vivid and interesting setting and then, well, wanders aimlessly until it ends quite a way from where it started, and I do not mean in a quirky, surprising way but in an annoying, ill-crafted way. One character also stands out like a peacock on a telephone line, and throughout the book you try to ignore him (he's that flashy/boring) and then at the end--poof, he's important! If you like to read about Rome, though, you've got some decent descriptions and a garlic-scented atmosphere for sure.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Dibdin's Italy is brilliantly realized -- not just the usual glamor-and-girls depiction of Italy from a million movies and schlock thrillers, but the realities of quotidien middle-class life, especially in the bloated public sector. Ministries operate with half their staff absent and the other half running import-export businesses from their desks on the side. Bribery, apathy, incompetence and venality are rife. Through it all trudges Aurelio Zen, trying to stitch together the pieces of a mystery that begins with a man falling to oblivion onto the centre of Catholicism's universe, and ends with another man doing the same onto Rome's material and commercial center.
Perhaps these, and other, pieces of symbolism are a little heavy; perhaps not. Some of the characters, for sure, seem larger-than-life to the point of cliché: Zen's Rich Friend Who Can Do Anything, for example; the narcissistic "Falco" and the obligatory teenage hacker who exists as a grotesque parody of the archetype. But along the way there's a compelling, fascinating mystery plot that entertains as long as it exists, and, when all the interlinked, implausible conspiracies reach their almost banal, yet entirely satisfying, climax.
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