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From Barnes & NobleOur Review
The Art of Zen
Writing a review of a Michael Dibdin novel is not easy, let me tell you. All the superlatives have been used so many times they've lost their power.
Elegant stylist. Bedazzling plotter. Spellbinding psychologist. And great storyteller.
In Blood Rain, Dibdin's Italian detective, Aurelio Zen, goes (not by choice) to Catania, where he is to make an assessment of certain spy operations there, said operations meant to penetrate the inner workings of the Mafia.
The physical danger comes from the violence so common to this district. The spiritual danger comes from an encounter with his adopted daughter and the precarious health of his mother.
An American would handle this material very differently, tending, I think, to either boozy melancholy or the dry, distancing, tough-guy stuff of the hard-boiled boys. And it would probably take place in L.A. or Florida.
But with Dibdin there is a Fellini-esque quality (I'm thinking here of Amacord), where the world is made up of all things human -- sorrow, humor, fear, reflection, vulgarity, poetry -- and society is not good or bad, merely a reflection of all human vagaries. For all the decay and corruption Zen encounters, there is little real anger in the book. Zen (and not for nothing has he been so named) is a man of wisdom and acceptance. He is a detective in both the literal and metaphysical sense. And he manages to be so without being in the least pretentious.
An excellent novel in all respects. And an edifying one. Dibdin's introspective approach is a relief from screaming potboilers.