Aurelio Zen is in his new posting, this time in Mafia infested city of Catania in Sicily. Being an outsider, he is struggling in his job, which he anyways has grown weary of. His only consolation is his adopted daughter, Carla. Carla is also working in Catania and Zen can finally get to know her better and have a family life. However, Carla and Zen find themselves in great danger when they stumble across information about a rotting body found in a train car.
Inspector Montalbano piqued my interest in Italian crime series. I started looking for good Italian mysteries and the name that kept cropping up at every corner was Aurelio Zen by Michael Dibdin. So, I jumped into middle of the series with Blood Rain. Right from beginning, I took a liking to the book. Dibdin writes in that half cynical, half-mocking style that is my favourite. Zen is cast from the same mould as my other favourite detectives, cynical with a wry sense of humour, one who knows the futility of his job but has a built in compass that always points towards justice, even though he is well aware how frustrating it can be to obtain justice for his victims in a corrupt society.
The book starts with murder of local mafia don’s son. Zen’s new posting is in Catania, Sicily. His job is to liaise between different police departments (a polite way of saying that his real job is to spy on anti mafia squad on behalf of his masters in Rome). He is also getting to know his adopted daughter Carla. Carla ends up on mafia’s radar as she is installing computer network in anti mafia squad’s office and befriends Judge Corinna Nunziatelli, who is investigating the murder. Soon, this treacherous game of deception and lies engulfs Zen. Being a northerner, he is out of his depth in Sicily, where warring mafia factions and their various supporters in government make it a tough job to identify who is really on which side.
Reading this book in the middle of the Great Indian charade that is called General Elections where almost one third of parliamentary candidates fielded by major Indian political parties face criminal cases (murder, extortion, kidnapping… you name it !) gave me a sense of Déjà vu. It was as if Didbin was talking about northern badlands of India when he described Sicily’s mafia culture. The distinction between police, mafia and politicians is permanently blurred (just like in India). Interests of many sides crisscross each other in such a complicated manner, it is impossible to remain on sidelines. Zen is caught in the crossfire, becomes fugitive and it takes all his wit and courage and some luck to survive. Just when we think Zen has finally managed to come out of the mess, there is another attempt on his life. Didbin ends the book leaving Zen’s fate unanswered, thus highlighting how anybody can end up being a pawn in someone else’s power game.
Blood Rain has added one more series on my TBR pile and I am definitely going to read the series from beginning now.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.
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