And Then You Die, by Michael Dibdin

"An Aurelio Zen mystery" - not sure how many of these there are, but Zen is a high-up detective in Rome's police force. In this book, he's just recovered from being injured by a bomb blast, and is now living incognito at a beach resort, while he waits to be called as a witness in a mafia trial in the US. But then someone who was sitting in his beach chair is killed, and he's whisked away to somewhere safer.

Well, this was a strange book. I assume that it's aimed at people who've followed Zen's adventures in previous volumes: there wasn't much in this one to make me particularly interested in Zen. The story was very bitty and felt rather aimless: in the first section he's on the beach, starting an affair with a woman he's met; then he's flown to Iceland, where some wierd dream-like stuff with supernatural folk-stories happens, then he's back in Italy talking with his boss about a new management structure in the police force, after which he goes back to the beach to find the woman, who subsequently ends up helping him to get rid of a corpse.

I don't know if the other books are like this: it's billed as a "mystery", but the main mystery was what was going on with the story. I wouldn't have been surprised if it had ended "and then he woke up", because there were so many non sequiturs in the story. Also, the inconsistent use the Italian/English distinction made it seem unreal: the dialog is all in English, although we're meant to understand that in fact the characters are speaking Italian, but while Zen puzzles over the meaning of the phrase "Life's a Beach" when he sees it printed on a T-shirt, he uses other English aphorisms that it's hard to imagine would be used in Italian - the one I remember is "lovely to look at, enchanting to hold, but if it gets broken, consider it sold".

I enjoyed listening to the book, but it was mainly because I couldn't imagine how he could bring everything to a close at the end: I was expecting some clever twist. But there wasn't one - we do get someone turning up who explains the reasons behind some of the odd stuff earlier on, but the follow up to that episode is itself strange, and then the book finishes. Maybe it was a metaphor for something, or maybe all the books are like this and it's sort of an in-joke.

Don't think I'll bother with any more.

Completed : 05-Nov-2004 (audiobook)

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