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Let’s go to Italy for a Cappucino.
What is the Aurelio Zen series about?
Written by British writer Michael Dibdin, Aurelio Zen is an Italian detective with the bad habit of being honest and a tendency to dig too deep into the cases that otherwise should have been quietly closed and buried.
Like Wallander, but with less success, Aurelio Zen has been the star of his own TV series, Zen on BBC, where he was played by Rufus Sewell in 2011.
How to read the Aurelio Zen Books in Order?
Every book in the Aurelio Zen series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- 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 he 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. Did he fall or was he pushed? Inspector Aurelio Zen finds that getting the answers isn’t easy, as witness after witness is mysteriously silenced – by violent death. To crack the secrets 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 he is drawn deeper into the 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 — Inspector Zen has been posted to Naples in disgrace, where he is asked to oversee the clean-up of the city’s corrupt authorities. Like the rest of Italy, Naples is concerned about its image and is trying to reform itself. Zen, however, finds that someone else is already at work. Corrupt politicians, shady businessmen and eminent members of the Italian Mafia are disappearing off the streets at an alarming rate and Zen must find out who is behind the murders.
- A Long Finish — 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. 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. 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 — 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 marks the beginning of Zen’s most difficult and dangerous murder case.
- And Then You Die — Inspector Zen is back, but nobody’s supposed to know it. 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. But when 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 it bungled months before on a lonely Sicilian road. The pleasant monotony of resort life is cut short as Zen finds himself transported to a remote and strange world far from home…and wherever he goes, trouble follows.
- Medusa — When a group of Austrian cavers 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. The whole affair has the whiff of political intrigue. 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, 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, and the case threatens to spin out of control…
- End Games — Aurelio Zen’s final case brings him to remote town of Calabria, at the toe of Italy’s boot, on what is supposed to be a routine assignment: the death of a scout for an American film company. But the case is complicated by a group of dangerous strangers who have arrived to uncover another local mystery – buried treasure – and who will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. The case rapidly spirals out of control, and Zen must penetrate the code of silence in the tight-knit community in order to solve the crime.
What to read after Aurelio Zen? There is a number of Italian detectives, including one of the most famous out there: Guido Brunetti by American author Donna Leon. You could also like Inspector Montalbano, Andrea Camilleri’s Sicilian detective.