A Long Finish by
hbk out January 99
Published by Faber & Faber
A new Michael Dibdin novel always arouses interest. In this case, is it justified?
Fresh from his triumphs in Naples, Aurelio Zen is in danger of being sent on a dangerous assignment to Sicily, where the life expectancy of high-ranking policemen from Rome tends to be unappealingly short. Fortunately a film director of enormous influence pulls strings to have him sent on another, more attractive assignment. Aldo Vincenzo, an important wine grower in Piedmont, has been brutally murdered. His son has been charged with the crime. The film director doesnt care who killed Vincenzo but he is worried that without the ministrations of the son this years wine harvest will be irreparably damaged. Zens mission is simply to ensure the prompt release of the son.
This he soon achieves. But nothing is as simple as it seems. In the rural hinterland around the Piedmont town of Alba, an area rich in truffles as well as wine, long rivalries run deep and there are obvious truths known to everyone except outsiders like the policeman from Rome. But Zen, cynical, selfish, and usually engaging, is a force to be reckoned with in his own right, even when, as here, he has to deal with many distractions, among them unplanned hashish intoxication and the appearance of a woman who may or may not be his daughter.
Has the new Zen book been worth the wait? Yes, on the whole. Michael Dibdin writes beautifully, as always. He knows Italy from the inside. His characters almost always ring true. That said, A Long Finish perhaps lacks the originality of conception of, say, Cosi Fan Tutti and indeed the emotional impact of Dead Lagoon (the last two Zen novels). But it deserved its place on the CWAs 1998 Dagger shortlist.
- author of the highly acclaimed Roth & Lydmouth Series)