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Dead Lagoon

(Aurelio Zen #4)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,726 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
Among the emerging generation of crime writers, none is as stylish and intelligent as Michael Dibdin, who, in Dead Lagoon, gives us a deliciously creepy new novel featuring the urbane and skeptical Aurelio Zen, a detective whose unenviable task it is to combat crime in a country where today's superiors may be tomorrow's defendants.Zen returns to his native Venice. He is se ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 3rd 1996 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1994)
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Rating details
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Aug 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime

I seriously hoped that I will like this book much more. Unfortunately, there are so many things that I don’t like about it.

But let’s start with the good ones. The book is set in Venice, such a lovely city for a crime story. And the city is really present in the book, it’s topography, history and atmosphere is important for the plot. I really like that. I have read some books by Donna Leon that are also set in Venice but I think that here the city plays even bigger role in the story.

Another thin
Jun 22, 2016 rated it liked it
When he awoke again the room was filled with an astringent brilliance which made him blink, an abrasive slapping of wavelets and the edgy scent which had surprised him the moment he stepped out of the train. He had forgotten even the most obvious things about the place, like the pervasive risky odour of the sea.

Detective Aurelio Zen, possessed of pockets too empty to afford his expensive new mistress, has picked up a little sidework requiring a return to his native Venice. The family of a missin
Sep 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of police literature, europhiles and Venice fans
I read this again recently, while mourning Dibden's untimely death. It really is one of his best; the story is complex, sometimes stultifying, full of corruption, age and complexity and yet, under it all, a human being with human frailties trying to run away from his problems - something most people can relate to.

Venice comes off badly - her politicians are venal, her police incompetent, her streets filty, and yet anybody who reads this book will want to visit!

Aurelio Zen doesn't do well either
Apr 13, 2009 rated it liked it
At first I was entranced! An intriguing mystery, some excellent figurative language, and even an unusual setting: Venice, Italy. Then, despite the fact that I'd already gotten pulled into this world, I felt myself starting to say "Enough already with the description of the unique aspects of the city" It seemed Dibdin got himself so snared up in that that he forgot to develop his plot! One section where the hero was chasing his old friend through Venice seemed completely gratuitous, as did much o ...more
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
Interesting and frustrating. The story is a little loose, a little unstructured for my taste. The crazy lady is the best character.
I really despised Aurelio Zen by the end of this book, but fortunately I got the feeling that he despised himself at the end of this book. This is the only one I've read and it is unusual because it's set in Venice (Zen's hometown). There's a lot of the 'prophet without honor in his hometown' feel to this one, but I can't help feeling that Aurelio's asking, begging
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This fourth book in the Aurelio Zen series started off slower than the previous books in the series for me. However, by the end I was glued to the page. Zen's manuevers between doing honest police work and surviving the official bureaucratic politics were up to his usual standards but there is a bit more about his personal life & past which surface both in Zen's reminiscences & in revelations from people who knew him & his family when they lived in Venice. Zen also exhibits some dist ...more
Rachel Amphlett
Oct 10, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Currently re-reading this series, and loving every minute of it. I'd forgotten how laugh-out-loud some of the metaphors used in Dead Lagoon were, and although the story isn't as much of a page-turner as others in the series, I'm still a fan.
Nov 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Michael Dibdin’s Dead Lagoon is novel. For one thing, it takes place in Venice and immerses the reader in a culture very different from our own. Secondly, its hero, Aurelio Zen, is not your ordinary cop. He’s a member of the Criminalpol, Italy’s elite investigative unit. The country is a quagmire of corruption and political intrigue. Zen, normally based in Rome, finds an excuse to look into the case of an old family friend who claims to having been attacked by mysterious apparitions. His real re ...more
Elisha Condie
Aug 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
This is not the same Zen I saw on PBS played by the weirdly handsome Rufus Sewell. That Zen had morals, and style, and substance. The Aurelio Zen in this book is a total jerkface.

Zen goes to Venice to solve the crime of what happened to a rich American who disappeared there. And to check up on the crazy old lady former neighbor who is having supernatural visits.

And it really stinks. Zen is mean to Tania (nice girlfriend back home), he solves some mysteries but NO ONE cares, no bad guys get t
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it
DEAD LAGOON. (1994). Michael Dibdin. ***.
This is an Aurelio Zen mystery, but Zen has taken himself off to Venice instead of sleuthing in Rome. The first third of the book is an extremely slow read. At about the time the story really got started, I was about to quit, when the pace picked up. It is still one of the slower novels – not characteristic of Dibdin’s writings. It certainly provides a picture of Venice that is very different from that that the average tourist takes away. If you are new t
James Winter
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I haven't had a chance to review Dibdin's other Zen novels, although I have read the first three before reading this one. Zen, of course, along with the intricate Italian world Dibdin has created, is the reason to read the series. I find him to be one of the most complex and entertaining crime fiction detectives. Unlike, say, Philip Marlowe, whose cynicism underlies a sense of moral righteousness when on a case, Zen resigns himself to being a screw-up in a screwed-up system. Yet, at some point i ...more
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
DEAD LAGOON is the fourth in 12 Aurelio Zen novels written by the late Michael Dibdin. This is my first venture into his series since I just happened to have this book procured from a bargain book sale. FANTASTIC!!! How did I not discover this series sooner, especially since it takes place in Italy, one of my favorite places--and cuisine! Dibdin is an excellent writer in drawing out the characters and the action. In this book, his hero Zen returns to his native Venice to investigate the disappea ...more
Meg Morden
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, venice
This book really is an argument for the stance that you can never go home again! Aurelio is back in his home town of Venice on his own reconnaissance to earn extra cash to support his girl-friend Tania who has just been evicted. He has been hired by an American family to find out what happened to their relative who disappeared three months before from an ‘octogona” a fortified island in the dead Lagoon. He decides to use a case iinvolving an old friend of his mother as a screen for his return an ...more
Sally Edsall
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime, italy, fiction
Misty, mysterious Venice is always a favourite "character", whether it be in fiction or biography. Venice does not give up its secrets easily, and Dibdin is a master at ensuring the tension builds and the plot is assisted through location. He is equally adept at characterisation - the restless, driven Zen, who confronts several ethical dilemmas along the way, and several of the supporting "cast" , all of whom come to life and populate the setting magnificently.

The story itself is intriguing, wit
May 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
SERIES: #4 of 11
RATING: 3.25
WHY: Aurelio Zen, a detective in Rome, has manufactured a reason to travel to Venice, the home of his birth. He is viewed with suspicion by his peers there, as the case he chooses to investigate is dubious at best involving an old, possibly insane, woman seeing ghosts. In reality he is trying to find out what happened to an American who disappeared, a private job for which he is being paid well. Dibdin draws a detailed (for me, t
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime
Zen fulfills the all cops are bastards axiom and 'solves' three bizarre mysteries that border on gothic horror. The ending was not a twist which in this genre and the way this story builds was a surprise that questions: what is justice? Dibdin is also saying something about politics, about centripetal forces within the European Union, but he says it in a very personal (Is anyone ever really 'home'?) and moving way. Published while the war in Bosnia was still going, Dibdin is able to make compari ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Most of the time I "see the movie" after I read the book-the usual results - I need not say-the book was better.
This time meandering through the Video area of the Library starting at the end of the isle - Zen - popped out.
Pulled it from the shelf, hmmm BBC, Rufus Sewell, the full Series - a possible great week end of lets get away from a long week.
What a wonderful surprise. This week end I started the batch of Dibdin's Aurelio Zen books.
The sad part it is the full Series both of the books and t
Nov 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Though I enjoyed reading a book set in Venice, especially after recently visiting there, I was disappointed in the end when I found that the book just seemed to drag forever. It’s a pity. Michael Dibdin wrote very evocatively at times. If only it was combined with a slightly faster pace.
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
How sad. Sad. Sad. Sad.
Simon Holdaway
Nov 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
Poor plot. Poor characterisation. Frequently cliches. A great deal of padding in descriptions of Venice.
Gene Lecouteur
Aug 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
OK. Not very well paced. The ending was disappointing. Too many things happen for specious reasons. I am wondering if I should read any more of these.
Schuyler Wallace
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
It’s taken over 15 centuries for humans to build up and subsequently cause the demise of Venice. Its remaining life is short. Although current residents struggle to preserve its historic buildings and waterways from the ravages of erosion, pollution, and water quality, the magnificence that once surrounded the Venetians is disintegrating. Michael Dibdin uses this world of foul water and crumbling infrastructure as backdrop for his eerie crime novel “Dead Lagoon.”

Aurelio Zen, an intrepid Italian
Roderick Hart
Jan 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zen proves that you can't go home again when his return to Venice goes wrong in several different ways. He needs money to find a larger place so that he, his mother and Tania can live together. Or at least that's the plan. He has an opportunity to take on a private project, working on behalf of the family of a wealthy American who disappeared from his Venice home months age. The family wants to know if he is living or dead and what happened.

In order to take on this job, Zen needs a genuine Vene
Alison C
Mar 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Dead Lagoon is the fourth in the Aurelio Zen series by Michael Dibdin; this time, Zen is seconded to his home city of Venice, ostensibly to look into the apparent harassment of a somewhat demented contessa who is being plagued by ghosts, but really because he has been hired by the family of an American millionaire who went missing while living in Venice. The city of his childhood and youth is both familiar and utterly strange to him now, but his essential Venetian soul soon reorients him to his ...more
Mary Josefina Cade
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Aurelio Zen, his name is a poem. As depicted in Michael Dibdin’s series, Zen is a tortured perfectionist in search of justice. Elusive justice. His thin figure twists through a corrupt system seeking balance, but rarely finding it. Occasionally this happens unexpectedly, as a by product of his often heroic efforts. Zen puts maximum effort into his work, he is obsessed with truth, a truth that nearly always turns out to be painful.

So, this is NOT a cosy detective series. ‘Dead Lagoon’ the fourth
Aug 23, 2008 rated it liked it
This procedural features the gloomy Italian detective Aurelio Zen returning to his home town of Venice. The strength of the book is the atmosphere with misty rain falling on the canals and the pungent smell of the city acting as a metaphor for the story the author tells. Venice itself becomes the most convincing character in the book -- mysterious, slippery, elusive, worldly, never quite what it seems and rotten to the core.
Zen himself chain-smokes his way through the book. Call me small-mind
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Watching Aurelio Zen move around Rome on PBS’s mystery series prompted me to read Dibdin. I have to say the book character is not as sexy as the TV guy, but he is still a complex detective that captures the reader’s interest. What makes him unique is he isn’t the rebellious anit-hero, but he is more nuanced by keeping his integrity and moving in gray areas of Italian power players to solve crimes and simultaneously insulate himself from retribution. In this mystery, he is secretively hired by th ...more
Police inspector Aurelio Zen returns to his hometown of Venice to investigate a closed case as a favor for his American former girlfriend--and with the hope of a little personal financial gain for his efforts. But he has to conduct this investigation without the Venice police knowing what he is doing. To conceal this side investigation, he picks a case no one really wants or believes can be solved. But his time in Venice gets tangled with family history, old relationships and local politics. Zen ...more
Mar 06, 2016 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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

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