My one liner: Classic Murder Mystery, Italian Giallo style. The Aurelio Zen series of murder-mysteries was serialised by the BBC last year.Vendetta is a fun read. Takes place in Sardegna.
The late Michael Dibdin created the Aurelio Zen detective stories in the 1980s and 1990s. Zen, the Rome-based crime-solver is the epitome of the under-paid, under-resourced, over-worked middle-aged Italian crime solver battling against the departmental bureaucratic stupor of the Criminalpol. And of course, his mother lives with him.
Vendetta is the second in the series and most of the action takes place in the beautiful, enigmatic, hostile countryside of Sardegna. Italophiles will enjoy.
For members of the international elite to establish a retreat in Sardegna, “..the
only requirement was money, and lots of it. As founder and owner of a construction company... there was no question that Oscar Burolo satisfied that requirement. But instead of meekly buying his way into the Costa [Smeralda] like everyone else, he did something unheard-of, something so bizarre and outlandish that some people claimed afterwards that they always thought it was ill-omened from the start. For his Sardinian retreat, Oscar chose an abandoned farmhouse half-way down the island’s almost uninhabited eastern coast, and not even on the sea, for God’s sake, but several kilometres inland !”
The fortress he constructs there is impenetrable, yet one evening he is brutally murdered, together with his wife and dinner party guests. “It had taken less than twenty seconds to turn the room into an abattoir. Fifteen seconds later, the caretaker would appear, having run from the two room service flat where he and his wife were watching a variety show on television.” No, the butler didn’t do it, but many other people had enough of grudge against Burolo, to exact such a vendetta.
As ever in Italy, political considerations are never far way. In this case onorevole (MP) and fixer Favelloni was also at the dinner party but had managed to leave with his wife prior to the killings. The investigating magistrate and the weight of public opinion thinks that he did it, albeit that the evidence is weak and circumstantial. Favelloni’s political allies put the requisite pressure on Zen’s superiors to have him sent to Sardegna to gather the requisite evidence to show that Favelloni is innocent. Who actually did it is not of particular concern, though in true Italian style it would be nice if someone else could be framed to add weight to the acquittal.
There are some nice little touches in the book. I don't know if the author meant it, but a particularly cute one is the irate Zen explaining to the obstructive clerk in the department archives that surname is spelt Zen, not Zeno. Surely the clerk has appreciated that he has swapped the word symbolising Mahayana Buddhism for the name of the founder of the philosophy of Stoicism !
Back in the story, also lurking in the background is communist agitator-turned gangster Vasco Spadola, just released from jail, having been put away twenty years ago by Zen. And he has his own vendetta to execute.
We follow Zen’s adventure into Sargedna’s hostile terrain (the people of this
island are not known for sharing their dark internal secrets) where slowly and
surely, by both luck and design, he exceeds his remit and closes in on what actually happened.
Here is wikipedia link to the book.