Michael Dibdin wrote several Aurelio Zen police procedurals set in various locations in Italy. I've read Cosi Fan Tutti and Dead Lagoon, but they didn't make me a fan of the series. It is all rather too butch and lacking in compassion for my tastes. But if that is your style, then go for it, because the books are very well written.
Aurelio Zen goes through the usual problems with his colleagues and women, in Naples and Venice, in the two books I read. Zen is taciturn and methodical throughout, and rather a slippery creature in his dealings with everyone. Here's a quote from Dead Lagoon after Zen has started imagining he can dump his girlfriend, Tania, and hook up with a childhood crush:
The prospect of eating alone in some dreary, over-priced trattoria did not appeal. When he spoke to Tania, he had deliberately exploited the drawbacks of his situation for dramatic effect, but the fact remained that in many ways it was not enviable. Despite this, he hadn't the slightest desire to be anywhere else, least of all back in Rome.
As though in response to this thought, the phone began to ring again. For a moment he toyed with the idea of not answering. The last thing he wanted was to have to resume the laborious task of trying to communicate meaningfully with Tania. He had nothing whatever to say to her. But it would only make matters worse in the long run to hide there, pretending not to be home. heaving a deep sigh, he walked through the living room and picked up the receiver.
The books in the series with their official descriptions:
Ratking - Police Commissioner Aurelio Zen has crossed swords with the establishment before - and lost. But from the depths of a mundane desk job in Rome he is unexpectedly transferred to Perugia to take over an explosive kidnapping case involving one of Italy's most powerful families.Vendetta - Inspector Zen has a problem: an impossible murder, recorded on the closed-circuit video of Oscar Burolo's top-security Sardinian fortress. As Zen gets to work, he is once again plunged into a menacing and violent world where his own life is soon at risk.
Cabal - When, one dark night in November, Prince Ludovico Ruspanti fell a hundred and fifty feet to his death in the chapel at St. Peter's, Rome, there were a number of questions to be answered. Inspector Aurelio Zen finds that getting the answers isn't easy, as witness after witness is mysteriously silenced - by violent death. To crack the secret of the Vatican, Zen must penetrate the most secret place of all: the Cabal.
Dead Lagoon - Aurelio Zen returns to his native Venice to investigate the disappearance of a rich American resident but he soon learns that, amid the hazy light and shifting waters of the lagoon, nothing is what it seems. As Zen is drawn deeper into the complex and ambiguous mysteries surrounding the discovery of a skeletal corpse on an ossuary island in the north lagoon, he is also forced to confront a series of disturbing revelations about his own life.Cosi Fan Tutti - In this, the fifth book in the acclaimed Aurelio Zen series, Zen finds himself in Naples, in disgrace - and having the time of his life. Like the rest of Italy, Naples is concerned about its image and trying to clean up its act.
Unfortunately it seems that someone is taking this rather too literally. Corrupt politicians, shady businessmen and eminent mafiosi are disappearing off the streets at an alarming rate. This is all very tedious for Zen, whose commitment to his work is at an all-time low. He would far rather amuse himself by sorting out the romantic entanglements of his landlady's nubile daughters and putting the fidelity of their unsuitable lovers to the test. But in the end he discovers that even in the 'New Italy' of the 1990s, some things, above all love and deception, never change.
A Long Finish - After his adventures under sun-drenched Neapolitan skies in Cosi Fan Tutti, Aurelio Zen finds himself back in Rome, sneezing in a damp wine cellar and being given another unorthodox assignment: to release the jailed scion of an important wine-growing family who is accused of a brutal murder. Zen travels north to an Italy as outwardly serene as Naples was manic. Amid the quiet fields, autumnal skies and crumbling farmhouses of Piedmont, Zen must try to penetrate a traditional culture in which family and soil are inextricably linked. Here secrets can last for generations, and have a finish as long and lingering as that of a good Barbaresco. Zen must also face up to mysteries from his own past, as well as grapple with the greed, envy, hatred and love that are the human components of any landscape.Blood Rain - After his last case, among the gentle hills and lush vineyards of Piedmont, Inspector Zen finally receives the order he has been dreading all his professional life: his next posting to Sicily.
The gruesome discovery of an unidentified, decomposed corpse sealed in a railway wagon on a disused siding marks the beginning of Zen's most difficult and dangerous case. Set against the backdrop of the three thousand-year-old city of Catania, in the shadow of the smouldering volcano of Etna, Blood Rain reveals Aurelio Zen at his most desperate and driven.
And Then You Die - Aurelio Zen of Rome's 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. 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 they bungled months before on a lonely Sicilian road ...Medusa - When a group of Austrian cavers exploring a network of abandoned military tunnels in the Italian alps come across human remains at the bottom of a deep shaft, everyone assumes the death was accidental - until the still unidentified body is stolen from the morgue and the Defence Ministry puts a news blackout on the case. And is the recent car bombing in Campione d'Italia, a tiny tax haven surrounded on all sides by Switzerland, somehow related? The whole affair has the whiff of political intrigue. That's enough to interest Aurelio Zen's boss at the Interior Ministry, who wants to know who is hiding what from who and why.
The search for the truth leads Zen back into the murky history of post-war Italy and obscure corners of modern-day society to uncover the truth about a crime that everyone thought was as dead and buried as the victim.
Back to Bologna - When the corpse of the shady industrialist who owns the local football team is found both shot and stabbed with a Parmesan knife, Italian police inspector Aurelio Zen is called to Bologna to oversee the investigation. Recovering slowly from surgery, and fleeing an equally painful crisis in his personal life, Zen is only too happy to take on what at first appears to be a routine and relatively undemanding assignment.
But soon a world-famous university professor is shot with the same gun, immediately after publicly humiliating Italy's leading celebrity television chef, and the case-intertwined with the fates of an earnest student of semiotics and a mysterious young immigrant who claims to be from Ruritania-spins out of control, and Zen is in no condition to rise to the challenge. There's also a wild card in the pack, Tony Speranza, Bologna's most flamboyant private detective.End Games - Aurelio Zen is posted to Calabria, where in the heart of a tight-knit traditional community there has been a brutal murder. Zen is determined to find a way to penetrate the code of silence and uncover the truth. But his mission is complicated by another secret which has drawn strangers from the other side of the world - a hunt for buried treasure launched by a single-minded player with millions to spend pursuing his bizarre and deadly obsession.
Several of the books have been adapted to television as films for British television. Here's a clip:
The books are available in various formats including paperback, e-book, and audio-book. Here are the versions of Ratking, the first book in the series, at Amazon.com.
This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.