A wonderful sense of place and culture. Inspector Zan is a wonderful character. He'll never replace Donna Leon's Brunetti, but he's a very close second.
****Aurelio Zen is a very funny character and this mystery will introduce you to him and to Italian Culture.
Venice, queen of Italy's radiant cities, is the fictional birthplace of two superb detectives: Donna Leon's Commisario Guido Brunetti, of the Venice police; and the late Michael Dibdin's Aurellio Zen, of Rome's central crime bureau.
Now, thanks to television series, we have screen versions of both: Brunetti has been played by two German actors in the series shot in Venice (in German, which is amusing; with both Uwe Kockisch and earlier, Joachim Krol, as Commisario Brunnetti); while the BBC is producing a series of Zen mysteries (with Rufus Sewell superb as the Machiavellian Zen).
Amazon has several of the BBC's Zen episodes available; they are beautifully filmed on site in Rome, although not yet "A Long Finish".
Among Zen's knacks are escaping one seemingly career-ending assignment by taking on what appears to be an even more crushingly hopeless case. Failures, of course, mean re-assignment to Palermo and those pesky Mafia car bombs. This time Zen is "assigned" by Italy's premier film maestro to get the owner of his favourite vineyard off the hook for murdering his father so the year's outstanding vintage will be bottled as scheduled. In Alba, the center of the Barolo region and the epicentre of Italian truffle-hunting, Zen must contend with multiple mysteries with vintages as long as those of the wine labels. And, of course, the food is literally and figuratively to die for.
Dibdin's art makes us laugh with, at, and for Zen, who's fatalistic views on life, love, and happiness would please Machiavelli as much as they would Marcus Aurelius. Zen is more than the perfect Italian copper, he is the perfect Venetian detective. Crimes will solve themselves; Zen's fine hand will orchestrate, his fine eye will observe, and then, with the finest tastes, Zen profits. As do we, as it should be.
And those exquisitely Italian villains? Well, let us just say, do NOT save reading the ending for when you are just about to sit down to lunch.
But otherwise, a vintage feast.
My husband loved this book but it isn't my kind of story so I can't comment on it.