Aurelio Zen of Rome's elite Criminalpol is back, but nobody's supposed to know it.
After months in hospital recovering from a bomb attack on his car, he is lying low under a false name at a beach resort on the Tuscan coast, waiting to testify in an imminent anti-Mafia trial.
Zen has clear instructions: to sit back and enjoy the classic Italian beach holiday - relaxing in the sun, eating seafood and engaging in a little mild flirtation with the attractive woman sitting under the next umbrella. But Zen is getting restless, and as an alarming number of people are dropping dead around him, it seems just a matter of time before the Mafia manages to finish the job it bungled months before on a lonely Sicilian road. Abruptly the pleasant monotony of beach life is cut short as Zen finds himself transported to a remote and strange world far from home...and wherever he goes, trouble follows.
Michael Dibdin was born in 1947. He went to school in Northern Ireland and later to Sussex University and the University of Alberta in Canada. He lived in Seattle. After completing his first novel, The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, in 1978, he spent four years in Italy teaching English at the University of Perugia. His second novel, A Rich Full Death, was published in 1986. It was followed by Ratking in 1988, which won the Gold Dagger Award for the Best Crime Novel of the year and introduced us to his Italian detective, Inspector Aurelio Zen. In 1989 The Tryst was published to great acclaim and was followed by Vendetta in 1990, the second story in the Zen series. His last novel, End Games, was published posthumously in July 2007.
"Beautifully crafted and evocative, with the perfect balance of plot and rueful digression...Dibdin's Zen novels effortlessly paint a sharper portrait of Italy than any guidebook, cookbook or academic history." (The Guardian)
"Dibdin has created an interesting alternative to the fast-paced, smart-assed, hard-boiled detective genre. His version is full of hidden half-truths, twisted, smiling, power-hungry authorities, and enough smoke and mirrors to keep you guessing - a modern take on the medieval mystery." (The Irish Times)
"There is an initial flurry of deaths among innocent people, in true Agatha Christie style, some Elmore Leonardish humour, a gadget straight out of James Bond, and a romantic subplot...Zen himself is as intriguing as ever." (New Statesman)
"Dibdin is a highly sophisticated writer who has chosen to stay largely within the crime genre. He brings off its required effects superbly, being especially a master of understated menace and unforeseen plunges into horror." (Sunday Times)
"Dibdin's Zen novels effortlessly paint a sharper portrait of Italy than any guidebook, cookbook or academic history.... And Then You Die is more meditative than the other Zen thrillers, beautifully crafted and evocative, with the perfect balance of plot and rueful digression." (The Guardian)
"Dibdin knows Italy from the south of Sicily tothe Swiss border.... Those who are familiar with things Italian will revel in his accounts and analyses, while those who are not can savour the bubbles and colours which are as inebriating as freshly uncorked Prosecco." (Times Literary Supplement)
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Ridiculous efforts at women's voices
When women were not involved, Cameron Stewart's voice is excellent. However, the squeaky high pitched sound he uses for women is dreadful. Instead of imagining a lovely sexy young woman your mind conjures up a pantomime dame, an old crone - it is really awful. He - or an editor - should really have listened to the recording. It is a shame to ruin a good story and an otherwise excellent reading with such a hideous interpretation of a female voice. As a woman I feel insulted.
Simon Pacey perhaps; you need someone familiar with Italian pronunciation though, and I am not sure he is. Michael Kitchen's strange narration of other Zen books are awful too. This is a man with a lovely voice and great ability as an actor but his slow, halting reading is no good either. I will just have to read the books instead.
Audition your readers.
- Vivien Tarkirk-Smith
A well plotted Zen again