Sadly Michael Dibdin died earlier this year so END GAMES, his latest Aurelio Zen mystery novel, the eleventh in the series, will be his last.
I say sadly because I have read them all and without exception have enjoyed them enormously. I have long rated him and Ian Rankin as the leading contemporary British exponents of crime fiction. Which I guess, for now anyway, means Rankin has the field to himself.
One of the great appeals for me of crime fiction is the widespread practice of developing a protagonist, usually a cop or private eye or similar, who then returns in novel after novel and so one gets top know them and their idiosyncrasies and foibles. There are many famous examples of this with Dibdin’s Aurelio Zen and Rankin’s Inspector Rebus being among them.
Perhaps my most favourite of them all though is P.D.James’ Commander Dalgleish.
All of Dibdin’s Zen novels have been set in Italy and in the course of them readers have been treated to a tour of most of that country from the mountains in the north to, (in this last one),the remote and rugged hilltop towns of Calabria in the south.
For the record Dibdin’s Zen novels, in order of publication date, and showing where they are set are as follows:
Ratking - 1988, Perugia
Vendetta - 1990, Rome & Sardinia
Cabal - 1992, Rome & Milan
Dead Lagoon - 1994, Venice
Cosi Fan Tutti - 1996, Naples
A Long Finish - 1998, Piemonte
Blood Rain - 1999, Sicily, Malta & Rome
And Then You Die - 2002, Tuscany, Iceland
Medusa - 2003, Italian Alps
Back to Bologna - 2005, Bologna
End Games - 2007, Calabria
It says much about his popularity, and to his publishers Faber for their commitment, that they all remain in print.
He also wrote seven other novels not in the Zen series
I’m not going to say much about END GAMES as it has been widely reviewed already, and to much critical acclaim, but among the kidnapping and murder and international and local intrigue, there is also a great deal of humour to be found in Zen’s snobby Venetian attitude towards the southern region where he finds himself in a temporary posting, and in particular towards the tomato-based regional cuisine which he cannot abide and against which he rails constantly.
The usual entertaining and satisfying read from a master of his trade.
Vintage Dibdin. Alas, there will be no more.
R.I.P Michael Dibdin.
Bookman Beattie salutes you and thanks you for years of great reading.
END GAMES Michael Dibdin Faber & Faber NZ$35.00