Vendetta by Michael Dibdin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
"[...] reflecting on his conflicting feelings about being readmitted to the male free-masonry which ran not only the Criminalpol department but also the Ministry, the Mafia, the Church and the government."
In Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen series each of the eleven stories happens in a different location in Italy. "Vendetta" (1990), the second novel in the series, begins in Rome but the most important part of the plot takes place in Sardinia. As I already mentioned in my reviews of three other books in the series ( Ratking , Cabal , and The End Games), Mr. Dibdin's greatest strength lies in masterfully capturing the ambience and character of Italy: one could likely learn more about the country from his books than from many travel guides.
Inspector Zen - after his handling of the Miletti's case where he valiantly fought against the corrupt system and where, even though he did not quite lose the fight, the system won anyway - has been promoted to the Ministry's prestigious Criminalpol division. A very rich owner of a construction company has been slaughtered, along with his wife and guests in his residence in Sardinia, and Zen is investigating. The victim's house is supposed to have had an absolutely foolproof security system, and the shooting has been captured in vivid detail on the security video. Powerful people in the system (politicians from one of the governing parties) again want to use Zen as a pawn in their game. So although, technically, it is the Ministry that sends Zen to Sardinia, in fact it is the politicians who tell the inspector what the results of his investigation should be. Read the book to learn how Zen finds out the way that the tight security of the victims' residence has been breached (I figured this out about mid-book), and whether he finds the murderer.
I love Mr. Dibdin's bitter and cynical - meaning realistic - view of the corrupt system that includes the government, the police forces, the business elite, and - obviously - the Mafia. One can do nothing, absolutely nothing against the system. But I also like the plot: "Vendetta" makes a good detective story and it is a fast, captivating read. The detailed and brutal description of the video recording that shows the murders is certainly memorable. Mr. Dibdin's writing is simple and economical, and he does not refer to human excreta in this installment of the series - maybe the depictions of the bleeding deaths suffice ("bright red blotches appeared all over his face like an instant infection.")
What I do not like is a thread that involves Mr. Spadola at the end of the story; the over-the-top histrionics take away from the impact of the story. Also, the literary device of having a parallel voice in the novel (typeset in italics) is clichéd and tired; fortunately it is pretty marginal.
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