End Games by Michael Dibdin

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End Games by Michael Dibdin

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The book that's likely to be the last in the Aurelio Zen series is set in Calabria. It's beautifully written, well plotted and an excellent read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: July 2008
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 9780571236176

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Aurelio Zen is in Calabria where he's the temporary Chief of Police for the town of Cosenza. He lacks the Calabrian, rather laid back attitude to law and order, particularly in certain rather delicate situations and the discovery of a body, dressed up as a corpse, in an abandoned village fires his determination to find out who is behind the crime. The investigation is complicated by the presence of a helicopter making repeated flights over the area, supposedly in search of places for a film to be shot on location - only they're actually scanning the river beds in search of treasure which legend has it was buried there many centuries ago.

When you read Michael Dibdin you get the benefit of a writer whose way with words is legendary:

He ... responded with a brief nod to the waiter's thanks, nicely pitched as always in the grey area between grudging respect and overt truculence.

Or Atheists are such bores. They talk about God all the time.

The book is packed with gems like these, but it's not just the language that's beautifully crafted. The plot - a pure police procedural rather than a sealed-room mystery - is neatly built and a compelling page-turner. There's a perfect picture of the closed societies of the isolated Calabrian hill towns, with their reluctance to be forthcoming with either authority or outsiders, particularly someone like Aurelio Zen. They're a stark contrast to the gung-ho in-your-face treasure seekers determined to succeed at literally any cost.

The eleven books in the Zen series, published over a period of nearly twenty years have taken a close look at various parts of Italy and the picture has not always been flattering to either Italy or the Italians. Dibdin never shied away from telling how things really are - a task made easier by the fact that he didn't feel compelled to suggest how they might be improved. Aurelio Zen's Italy is not the country the guide books would have you long to visit, but I suspect it's closer to the truth.

In earlier books Zen was not the sort of man you would have cared to spend time with but in End Games we meet a softer, pleasanter man although still committed to his job. He's happily married now and missing his wife, Gemma and even has an almost friendly relationship with his superior officer. He's more fallible than in earlier books and it's easier to warm to him. I loved the characters in this book, from the elderly villager who knows more about the murder than she would have her family realise she's told Zen, through to the treasure hunters who could have been caricatures but were not.

Michael Dibdin died just three months before the publication of this book and we must presume that it will be the last of the series. It's not the best in the series - that for me was Cabal - but it's decidedly better than such as Blood Rain. Although there is a loose continuing story in the Zen series each can be read as a stand-alone book. Even if this was to be simply another of a continuing series it would be well worth buying. As the last in the series it's a must-have.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.

Dibdin has always been out in front on his own, but if the Italian-based police procedural appeals to you then you might also enjoy the best of Donna Leon or The Seventh Sacrament by David Hewson. They're not Michael Dibdin though.

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Buy End Games by Michael Dibdin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy End Games by Michael Dibdin at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy End Games by Michael Dibdin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy End Games by Michael Dibdin at Amazon.com.


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