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Cabal (Aurelio Zen #3)

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  1,246 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
In Cabal, master crime writer Michael Dibdin plunges us into a murky world of church spies, secret societies, cover-ups, and mistaken identities.

An apparent suicide in the Vatican may in fact have been a murder conducted by a centuries-old cabal within The Knights of Columbus. A discovery among the medieval manuscripts of the Vatican Library leads to a second death, Zen t
Paperback, 416 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Faber & Faber (first published 1992)
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Nov 07, 2016 Darwin8u rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
"Nothing had changed. Nothing ever would. In sheer frustration he fired his pistol again and again, blasting away as though to punch new stars in the sky."
-- Michael Dibdin, Cabal


Dibdin writes tight little Italian mysteries that are blessed with one huge plus -- Aurelio Zen. He seems to be a direct descendent of both Father Brown and Inspector Montalbano (or Philip Marlowe).

Zen is an Italian anti-hero detective. A skilled and savvy investigator with a morality that seems at times to be just a b
I keep a cache of books, a sort of metaphorical trunk, filled with works by authors from whom I know precisely what to expect. Not the best stories, not the worst; straight middle-of-the-road fare I can turn to when my mind's gone to gurgling from a surfeit of challenging material. Steven Brust is in that trunk. The latest Dune manifestation. Somebody's something on writing. Dibdin is also in that trunk - one less now of the eleven Aurelio Zen mysteries he released before he died.

I was introduce
Jack Erickson
I've read Dibdin before and thoroughly enjoyed his stories of detective Aurelio Zen, which are very original and engaging. Readers can earn more about Italian daily life, culture, politics, and morality from Dibdin than from guidebooks or even traveling. Dibdin was English, taught in Italy for several years, and became a very astute observer. Unfortunately, he died a couple years ago and readers won't be able to enjoy any new books.

In "Cabal," Zen is assigned to be liaison with the Vatican polic
I had put off reading any of Dibdin's popular Zen series on the grounds that gritty, macho tales of corruption are not, generally, my thing. After watching the new miniseries adaptation, however, I decided to give them a shot. Cabal was a well-plotted thriller with a nice twist at the end. Sure, it's full of corrupt organizations and unfair political machinations, but they are presented as simply being part of the Italian modo di vivere, and they actually come off as being rather charming. Zen i ...more
Lyn Elliott
Dec 14, 2016 Lyn Elliott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, italy
It's a while since I've read any of Dibdin's Aurelio Zen novels, and this was perfect for a recent trip where I spent hours hanging around airports waiting for late planes (charitably she doesn't mention the airline).
I must admit I was hoping for a really nasty bit of Vatican-related plotting, but the seemingly dastardly secret cabal vaporizes and the solution to the murders comes out of an unexpected corner. I hope that's not a SPOILER.
Zen has struck me previously as essentially honest. Here he
Feb 23, 2011 rabbitprincess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like Italy and clever mysteries
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: Masterpiece Mystery
Shelves: from-me-to-me, 2011
Another entertaining read in the Aurelio Zen series. Even though I read it pretty much right after finishing Vendetta, I still really enjoyed it and did not experience Zen burnout.

The plot may sound a bit farfetched given the overexposure of Dan Brown's cheesy religious thrillers -- in Cabal, a suicide in St. Peter's Basilica may have been murder, and the murder may have been committed by a secret cabal within an ages-old religious order, but Dibdin makes it work, primarily because he was writin
Jan 16, 2011 Sonia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like many people, after watching the first episode of Zen on BBC1 last week, I though I might try one of the books. I think Amazon were counting on this and had this one, which is the third in the Aurelio Zen series at just £1 on Kindle.

(Is it just me, or is Rufus Sewell getting better with age btw?)

Anyway, I was about 75% of the way through when Sunday’s episode #2 came on, and because of the start, I realised that it must be the book I was reading. Which it was, except in no shape or form was
Oct 04, 2011 Cathy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 26, 2012 Annabelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another Aurelio Zen mystery where Zen stays in Rome and gets embroiled in a money laundering scheme involving the separate state of the Vatican; who knew they were like an off shore account? Author Dibdin entraps the reader with rich descriptions of settings and Italian social life that makes one not want the book to end. I wanted to go out with Zen and have grappa in espresso for breakfast and search the ancient, twisting, cobblestone streets to find a mansion with a crazy lady designing cuttin ...more
Feb 17, 2013 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aurelio Zen is an interesting figure. Very pragmatic and not overly inconvenienced by ethical considerations, yet still having some standards. Perhaps you'd call him a depressive realist? Yet, despite being willing to compromise the truth to meet the expectations of the Vatican and his own bosses and carefully following the CYA rule, he doesn't seem to be able to avoid angering just about everyone. Gosh, I would NOT want to be him! And the ending scene.... well, let's hope that it convinces Zen ...more
Mar 03, 2016 Palmreader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really am enjoying this series. Unfortunately I am reading them in reverse order, as I finally looked at the list. But that doesn't seem to matter. This particular book is built around a labyrinth of lies, deceit, and mistaken belief. It is a lovely plot that includes collusion at the Vatican, the ineptitude of the police and the interference of the politcal system. Lovely stuff. Aurelio Zen continues to be a blunderer and a hopeless romantic.
So much fun.
Sue Law
Jan 15, 2017 Sue Law rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-crime
The best of the Zen novels so far. Zen knows he's been dropped in the sticky stuff when he's seconded to the Vatican following a suspected suicide in St Peter's. The Vatican want independent verification that it is suicide, and Zen complies (despite the evidence to the contrary). Then someone leaks doubts about the verification to the newspapers, naming Zen. He's not just in the sticky stuff, he's up to his neck in it.
Dave Gibson
Jan 17, 2017 Dave Gibson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
R.I.P, Mr Dibdin. This is a great example of a writer who could spin a great yarn without seeming to get out of first gear. He wrote like oiled silk and his story lines were always interesting and challenging. I would recommend the Zen series to any lover of crime/mystery. Rather then have his character stagnate in one location, he moved him around regularly. This added new zest to each story, full of "political" intrigue and often mysterious crimes to solve. This one deals with the Vatican and ...more
Lukasz Pruski
May 16, 2015 Lukasz Pruski rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Another disappointment! While I quite liked Michael Dibdin's End Games (reviewed here ), his "Cabal" (1992), a substandard thriller, is a badly botched effort. Although The Scotsman in its back-cover blurb pronounces: "Michael Dibdin is an absolutely sensational writer", my take would be: "Michael Dibdin is a master of hiding his solid writing skills under the cover of embarrassingly amateurish style."

Sunday Times writes "Dibdin puts together a fictional structure that combines the intriguing t
Roderick Hart
Mar 15, 2013 Roderick Hart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third book in the series featuring Aurelio Zen, a detective from Venice. Each book is set in a different location, in this case Rome, since the cabal in question is thought to be a secret society operating within the Vatican. This review contains a mild spoiler concerning Zen’s love life.

The starting point is the death of Prince Ludovico Ruspanti, who falls a hundred and fifty feet to his death in the chapel at St. Peter's in Rome. Zen is invited to investigate the death. Though the
Alison C
Cabal is Michael Dibdin's third entry in his Aurelio Zen series, and like the previous two, it features the assumption by Zen's superiors and other people in power that he can be relied to do what he is asked to do because he is as thoroughly corrupt as they are. Of course, Zen is anything but corrupt, but that perception turns out to be quite handy at times.... In this novel, Zen is called in to "investigate" following the death of a prominent figure, a Prince who has apparently committed suici ...more
Peter Auber
Sep 06, 2014 Peter Auber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 28, 2011 Mary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the third and final book in the Dibdin omnibus I borrowed. It starts off with a 'jumper' who falls from the dome of St Peter's onto the floor of the Nave during a mass. Now here is why I resent Dan Brown. This book, being a mystery, set in the Vatican City, centering around St Peter's, with a church conspiracy, well it reeked of Angels and Demons. Even though this came many years before and isn't anywhere as silly. That's what you get for enjoying a silly, fun beach read.

My main problem
Sep 10, 2014 Jemina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Aurelio Zen -sarjan kolmas osa tapahtuu pääosin Zenin tuoreessa kotikaupungissa, Roomassa. Dibdin kuvaa etenkin Venetsiaa ja Perugiaa niin mukaansatempaavasti, että odotin innolla, mitä Vatikaanin muurien takaa saadaan revittyä irti. No... parempiakin dekkareita Kirkkovaltion alueelta on tullut.

Alku lähtee liikkeelle lupaavasti: muutaman sivun jälkeen saadaan ensimmäinen ruumis keskelle Pietarinkirkkoa. Putoaminen näyttää onnettomuudelta, ja Zenkin on oman mukavuudenhalunsa vuoksi taipuvainen vi
Nov 06, 2011 Silvio111 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love every book in this series, but CABAL, the third one, ended a bit abruptly, I thought. It is typical for an Aurelio Zen story to end with the detective in some sort of disadvantage; usually physical injury. But in this one, he solves the mystery but we don't learn the consequences of that discovery upon Zen.

I suspect that his relationship with the beautiful Tania is rapidly disintegrating. Dibdin has this ability to elicit our sympathy for the clever yet stoic Zen while at the same time re
Jul 19, 2008 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Dibdin writes compact, tightly-plotted mysteries set in and around the mean streets, sleazy docks, and upscale environs of urban Italy. CABAL's a Rome and Vatican novel, which opens with a rousing, fall-from-the-top-of-St-Peter's death and zips onward from there. Like the other Dibdin novel I read this summer, CABAL clocks in at just about 250 pages: Dibdin is really good at compressing 350-page plots into 250 pages without making the narrative feel or seem any less densely textured. Thi ...more
Jan 29, 2011 Dianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: detective, italy
Third book in the Aurelio Zen series.

I picked this book up after watching the BBC Zen adaptations, which I enjoyed. But there are significant differences between the TV drama and the novel. This 're-write' is to be expected as I cannot see the Vatican handing over St.Peter's to the BBC for a couple of days filming.

I have taken to Zen who is not quite bent but does operate on the margins, as most of the characters do. Public servants runs private schemes from ministerial buildings using state equ
False Millennium
Aurelio Zen back in Rome taking on Vatican City. An odd twist at the end. During the final chase scene, there was an interesting passage that applies so well to the recession we are going through today. A body comes shooting down from the glass ceiling of a shopping galleria:

"Nevertheless, it was some such gesture of protest that sprang to most people's minds when they heard the sound of breaking glass. The shop windows were a powerful symbol of the socioeconomic barriers against which the poor
Sean Brennan
May 14, 2013 Sean Brennan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
In this the third book in the series, Zen is sent to investigate the apparent suicide of a high ranking member of the Italian aristocracy, unfortunately said death occurred in the Vatican, which meant that Zen becoming involved with that bastion of openness and full disclosure the Catholic Church.

The story contains enough red herrings to support a mid sized fishmongers, but for me what I love about the series is the utter corruption of the various police departments that are supposedly responsib
Janne Paananen
Eipä päässyt tämä kirja koukuttamaan missään vaiheessa. Takakannen tekstin mukaan kirjassa seikkaileva Aurelio Zen on mielenkiintoisimpia poliisihahmoja. No tämän kirjan perusteella kommentoisin tuohon, että bullshit. Zen on aivan tyypillinen kirjallisuuden antisankarihahmo: vaatimaton, tunaroiva, naisasioissaan onneton ja vieläpä lahjottavissa. Yleensä antisankareiden toilailuja on hauska lukea, mutta tässä siinä ollaan menty täysin metsään pyrkimällä kuitenkin tekemään Zenistä vakavasti otetta ...more
Aug 09, 2011 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A minor Roman prince falls (or is pushed?) from the gallery in St. Peter's, falling to his death during a mass for tourists. The Vatican calls Zen in for spin control. The Vatican policeman who was watching the prince is electrocuted in his shower. There is - or isn't- a sinister group operating within the secretive Knights of Malta (who may or may not be in league with the CIA). Zen's lover Tania suddenly seems to have too much money and is taking mysterious trips. She has secrets that worry hi ...more
Inspector Aurelio Zen is called in by the Vatican 'police' to aid in the investigation of an apparent suicide on Vatican soil as a courtesy of the Italian police. Thinking it was all wrapped up, he goes home to his warm bed and girlfriend. But the investigation is far from over. Soon there is another 'accidental' death related to the first death and rumors of a Vatican Cabal. The series is an interesting look into the complicated, corrupt world of Italian bureaucracy. Zen is not one to avoid cut ...more
Tim Prosser
Jun 11, 2012 Tim Prosser rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What can you say about Michael Dibdin, that’s not been said before? Reading his books is like taking a holiday, you always feel utterly refreshed coming out the other side. Of all the Italian detectives, including Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti and Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Salvo Montalbano, Zen is the most vivid, the most fully-formed. He's not always certain which side of the law he operates on and is quite happy to condone corruption. He's shady, infinitely likeable and would prob ...more
Gerald Sinstadt
Sep 05, 2013 Gerald Sinstadt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
A man plunges to his death from the cupola of St Peter's in Rome. Did he fall or was he pushed? A tempting enough beginning. Aurelio Zen's need to be a conscientious policeman while coping with professional and church politics thickens the brew enticingly.

It is Zen's somewhat odd romantic relationship that first tests the reader's willingness to follow wherever the author may lead, and it has to be said that ensuing events are increasingly bizarre. Explanation, when it comes, is lengthy, tortuou
Oct 05, 2011 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Third in the Aurelio Zen Italian policeman mystery series. The story is taking place a year after the previous novel. Again Zen is faced with working out the what happened and whys for a murder in the Vatican that is made to appear as a suicide. Instead of dealing with the internal politics of the Italian police force and politics; he is dealing with the same thing involving the Vatican and a mysteries powerful group known as the Cabal. The solution is bit different than what was expected.

A lot
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Michael Dibdin was born in 1947. He went to school in Northern Ireland, and later to Sussex University and the University of Alberta in Canada. He lived in Seattle. After completing his first novel, The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, in 1978, he spent four years in Italy teaching English at the University of Perugia. His second novel, A Rich Full Death, was published in 1986. It was followed by Ratki ...more
More about Michael Dibdin...

Other Books in the Series

Aurelio Zen (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Ratking (Aurelio Zen, #1)
  • Vendetta (Aurelio Zen, #2)
  • Dead Lagoon (Aurelio Zen, #4)
  • Così Fan Tutti (Aurelio Zen, #5)
  • A Long Finish (Aurelio Zen, #6)
  • Blood Rain (Aurelio Zen, #7)
  • And Then You Die (Aurelio Zen, #8)
  • Medusa (Aurelio Zen, #9)
  • Back to Bologna (Aurelio Zen, #10)
  • End Games (Aurelio Zen, #11)

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