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End Games: An Aurelio Zen Mystery (Aurelio Zen Mysteries) Hardcover – August 14, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
The wry 11th and final Insp. Aurelio Zen mystery (after 2006's Back to Bologna) will leave the series' many fans in renewed mourning for Gold Dagger–winner Dibdin (1947-2007). When the corpse of American attorney Peter Newman is discovered in Calabria after an apparent botched kidnapping, Zen finds himself probing the rumor that Newman was not only born in Italy but heir to a family of southern Italian landowners. The detective must sort out other possible motives for the crime, including the dead man's work for an eccentric Hollywood producer hoping to outdo Mel Gibson with a film based on the Book of Revelations. The writing occasionally soars (There is a unique flavor of melancholy to remote railway stations during the long intervals between the arrival and departure of trains), and Zen's apt observations of his country's foibles and the unromantic portrayal of Calabria help to balance the sometimes brutal plot. This quirky series will be missed. (Aug.)
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"Didbin's Italy-based Aurelio Zen tales are among the best in the mystery genre."
--The Boston Globe
"Didbin has an abundance of gifts: bracing wit, the ability to wring unexpected poignance out of dark comedy, and a gift for striking imagery."
--The Wall Street Journal
"Didbin belongs to that hierarchy of innovative stylists who make it a point of honor never to repeat a singal trick."
--The New York Times Book Review
"Didbin's work deserves comparison with such...giants as Raymond Chandler."
"Didbin is esential reading for those who love mysteries and Italy without illusions."
--The Washington Post
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Now the story. Perhaps too many twists and turns for me. I got lost trying to follow all the different plots, intrigues, and characters and the usage of unusual Italian names strained my memory banks as I tried to keep straight who was who and which plot they were associated with in the story. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the overall mystery story including its slightly unpredictable ending. What was predictable were the Italian government officials taking most of the credit for Zen's successes in solving the complicated series of murders and associated crimes followed by Zen's dismissal from further duties at the local district and his orders to return home without much in the way of a thanks for a job well done.
So it is time to say ciao to both Dibdin and Zen...........
In the Anglo/American tradition of the crime novel, there may be some corruption in the world but in the end the system works. Criminals are caught and justice is done. Things are more complicated in the Latin crime novel. The system works in its own way but there are a whole series hidden rules that only the insiders know. Its a cynical and very old world approach to justice. The attraction of these stories is that they are so different from the rational and modern Anglo/American tradition.
Writing in this crime writing tradition, Michael Dibdin set each of the Aurelio Zen novels in a different part of Italy. In turn, each of the regions become supporting characters in his novels. Calabria is located in the toe of Italy and it is a region known for its poverty, its history of exploitation by feudal landowners and the toughness of its peasants. "End Games" is Dibdin's meditation on the world of rural banditry and the closed peasant communities in which this old tradition still survives.
Sadly, Michael Dibdin passed away in March 2007. "End Games" is the last book in the Aurelio Zen series. Mystery readers will greatly miss Dibdin and his complicated hero Aurelio Zen. For fans of this memorable series, it is good to know that Dibdin ended the series in fine fashion. For fans of the Latin crime novel, I would recommend reading Paco Ignacio Taibo, Leonardo Sciascia and Rubem Fonseca. All great writers and social commentators.
While he can be forgiven for presenting a Calabria a tad too corrupt and a bit to lively, mixing Hollywood, treasure hunters, archaeologists, Roman history and an assortment of corrupt public officials and fixers and a grotesque opening murder does present problems (a good antidote to this would be to view the movie "Le Quattro Volte").
If I can find one unsettling aspect of this novel, and it is only one, it is that the death of his step daughter in the previous novel did not to seem to impact Zen as I felt it should. All in all time well spent with this novel.
While "End Games" shares some of the classic story elements of early Zen books--his quasi exiling to a provincial city of Italy for some offense to the powers that be; his cynicism about Italian politics and the Italian character; and his middle-aged angst--there is clever and farcical humor in this story that I don't remember seeing in the series since "Cosi Fan Tutti."
Zen shares this book with a number of broadly drawn American characters who, at times, seem borrowed from Carl Hiaasen's dark romps in Florida. That resemblance in no way detracts from the storyline and merges well with Zen's attempts to tip-toe through a temporary stay in unfamiliar and xenophobic Calabria.
No need to explain the plot of the book, but suffice it to say that it is highly original and constantly zig-zagging until the end. "End Games" is an entirely satisfying finale to a wonderful series and a fine testimony to the writing career of Michal Dibdin, who passed away this year.