Tuesday, 16 November 1999

Michael Dibdin: Vendetta (1990)

Edition: Faber & Faber, 1991
Review number: 390

The case at the centre of the Aurelio Zen novel Vendetta is quite a baffling one, a close relative of the locked room mystery. Rich business tycoon Burolo had a spectacular villa built in Sardinia, using the latest in electronic surveillance and deterrence - as well as a pair of lions bought from a struggling safari park - to keep out unwelcome visitors. An obsessive film maker, his huge cellars are used to store thousands of video tapes recorded both surreptitiously and openly, including film of his wife's affair with the lion keeper. However, not only does an intruder penetrate through the estate to the house, but they also shoot Burolo and his dinner guests in front of a video camera. But, as the pictures are of the dying, there is no clue as to the identity of the killer.

For political reasons, there are influential people dissatisfied with the eventual choice of murderer made by the police, and so Zen is asked to reopen the case. The scarcely spoken implication is of course that he must find the "true" killer, politically acceptable, with enough evidence to let their man off the hook. The expectation is that Zen will manufacture whatever evidence is needed.

The background of corruption gives a dark feeling to the novel, and as with the other Dibdin story I have read, it is centred around a not particularly likeable character. It is well written, though I think that Dirty Tricks is better still.

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