This is the second in the series of novels featuring the detective from Venice, Aurelio Zen. As in the other titles, Dibden is excellent at bringing out the rivalries in Italian law enforcement, both between individuals and organisations. The political element is always lurking in the background and is, for lesser mortals like Zen, difficult to gauge.
Although this is only the second book in the series Zen is already disillusioned, having realised that getting a result might not be the same as identifying the actual culprit. It may not be politic to do that since the desired outcome may be to fit someone else up for a given crime for purely political reasons. And this is the case here, where all the people living within the perimeter of a fortress-like safe house are murdered.
On the emotional level, Zen is having problems on two fronts. The first is his mother, who seems to be losing it – especially when she is living with him. The second is a married police officer, Tania Biacis, whom he seems to desire solely on the grounds that she is there. In fact, Zen is not a particularly likeable man, not a person you would warm to. On the other hand, he is intelligent and well suited to detection.
The title of the book refers, not to a vendetta Zen is investigating, but to a criminal who intends to kill him to get even for past grievances. The plot is complex but the solution to the mysterious deaths, though unexpected, makes good sense.
Dibin’s books are unusual in that the quality of writing is unusually high for this genre and would stand comparison quite easily with literary fiction. There is real pleasure to be had from his prose, and that can’t be said very often.