Michael Dibdin

Books: Mystery

Aurelio Zen: Dead Lagoon (1994)

Dead Lagoon (1994)

dead_lagoonAurelio Zen is a Criminalpol police officer who has wrangled his way to Venice in search of a case so he can cover his real pretext for being in Venice–to reopen a missing persons file because the family is offering him large sums of money for closure in the case.

Unfortunately for him, both the case he takes on “officially” and the case he is unofficially investigating turn ugly quickly, and Zen finds himself in hot water not only at the Questura but with his old friends in the city.

First things first, this is the fourth book in the series, so it’s possible I’m missing some important background. Why do I mention this? Because as far as I could tell, in Dead Lagoon Aurelio Zen is an unmitigated asshole and has absolutely no redeeming qualities.

He cheats on his girlfriend–the girlfriend he has been pushing to move in with him–with a married woman. He’s in Venice working on a case, only because finding what happened to the missing man will being him a year’s pay for only a week’s work–work that he intends to do only a half-assed job on. And he indirectly causes the deaths of two people and after his initial shock, doesn’t seem much upset about the fact.

What on earth do people see in this guy that they want to read more books about him? I kept waiting for redeeming qualities to appear, and they never did.

As far as the atmosphere, the book is set in Venice, and I have to say I’ve gotten a much better sense of the city from other books I’ve read set in Venice. There’s ambiance, but it feels as if everyone Zen meets is either corrupt or insane, which doesn’t give one any better of an impression of the city than Zen made upon me.

We do learn the answers to the problems Zen has been researching, but they are simply answers–there is no justice.

All in all I found this to be a thoroughly depressing book with a thoroughly unlikable protagonist. The only reason I kept reading was that I wanted to know what happened, and I wanted to see if I could figure out why people liked Aurelio Zen. I got an unsatisfactory answer to the first question, but remain boggled about the second.

Rating: 4/10