cover image A Long Finish: An Aurelio Zen Mystery

A Long Finish: An Aurelio Zen Mystery

Michael Dibdin. Pantheon Books, $3.99 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-375-40429-0

Family truths and family lies, as gnarled and hidden as prized local truffles, beat at the heart of the newest case for Italian police inspector Aurelio Zen, last seen in Cosi Fan Tutti (1997). Sent in early fall from Rome to the Piedmont to determine who killed a local vintner in time to save the dead man's vintage, Zen is out of his realm in many ways. He doesn't know the language of wine or wine making, nor is he privy to the generations-old secrets that may lie behind the mutilation and murder of wealthy, unpopular Aldo Vincenzo, whose DOC Barbaresco is the best wine of the region. In jail, but only for a while, is the victim's son, Manlio, who fought loudly with his father the evening before the body was discovered. The subsequent deaths of a local truffle hunter and another vintner provide clues, but Zen's course is twisted, complicated further by his continuing distress over his girlfriend's recent abortion, by anonymous phone calls he receives at odd locations, by unexpected bouts of somnambulism and by the intimations of a local hashish-smoking, harpsichord-playing physician that the policeman harbors a deep-seated psychological problem. Even so, Zen is a masterful investigator, who steps well beyond the bounds of accepted interrogation to ferret out the decades-old relationships of love and deep resentment that surface in the current sequence of murders. The path to his ultimate success in this layered case is, as usual, pure pleasure for Dibdin's readers. (Sept.)