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
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 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.
In Blood Rain, Mr. Dibdin's prose is as startlingly clever as his plot, stretches the existential suspense through to the final page...where he shocks readers either with the most daunting cliffhanger since a certain S. Holmes plunged into Reichenbach Falls, or with a fairly foreshadowed finale that subverts some of the most cherished conventions of detective fiction.
Wall Street Journal
An exquisitely meandering pace, lots of local color and an affectionate but biting look at modern life in Italia makes Michael Dibdin's mysteries series Blood Rainas bracing as grappa.
"As bracing as grappa.... Michael Dibdin is a fine novelist and an excellent mystery writer."USA Today