Dibdin, Michael - 'Back to Bologna' (Unabridged Audiobook) read by Michael Tudor Barnes
BACK TO BOLOGNA is the tenth of the Aurelio Zen series which came to an end with the untimely death of the author earlier this year leaving one more title, END GAMES, to be published posthumously.
Zen is on sick leave after a stomach operation and is feeling a shadow of himself. His relationship with his partner, Gemma, is also not going well. She is about to leave for Bologna to meet her son who has something important to tell her. Meanwhile Zen is recalled to duty and is sent to be the liaison officer for a high profile murder investigation - in Bologna – where the local football team owner has been shot and stabbed.
Whilst in Bologna, Gemma manages to get tickets to watch a live cook-off between local academic and celebrity Edgardo Ugo and singing tv chef Romano Rinaldi, Lo Chef Che Canta e Incanta, who feels slighted when Ugo suggests he can't cook in a newspaper article. A series of coincidences leads to Zen being arrested when Ugo is found shot, after the disastrous cook-off.
The other main characters include a couple of flatmates – a student of Ugo and a devoted rich football fan – the student's illegal immigrant girlfriend who calls herself Princess Flavia of Ruritainia and a private detective who models himself on an American PI of the mean streets.
BACK TO BOLOGNA is a farce and I mean it in the theatrical way, it's like a play with a larger stage with all the characters bumping into one another and there is very little actual police work. It was an absolute treat to listen to and makes me smile every time I think about it. Michael Tudor Barnes reads it magnificently and no doubt contributed much to my enjoyment. The source material is wittily and slyly written - at one point, Ugo muses on how he almost wrote "a mystery in which the detective solves nothing" and further that he had in mind for his protagonist "a certain Inspector Nez". Another example is how a couple of Zen's fellow detectives are called Guarnaccia and Brunetti – names familiar to readers of Magdalen Nabb and Donna Leon.
This was my first Zen, though not my first Dibdin, and I wonder if any of the other Zens will be quite like this one!
Karen Meek, England