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The first Aurelio Zen novel by Michael Dibdin

Police Commissioner Aurelio Zen is a Venetian living and working in Rome and he constantly feels like an outsider.

But the problem for Michael Dibdin’s fictional detective is not just being away from the city of his birth but because he has been shunted into an administrative role as a result of something that has happened in his past.

In Ratking, the first of Dibdin’s novels to feature Zen, the Commissioner is brought out of the shadows and sent to Perugia to investigate the kidnapping of a rich businessman. Political pressure has been brought to bear on the Polizia dello Stato to achieve some progress in the case and they are forced to put Zen back into active service because there is literally no one else to send.

Dibdin cleverly reveals the character of his detective as the reader sees the techniques he employs to learn about the complex personalities of the family of the kidnapped businessman.

Kidnapping cases were Zen’s speciality and he proves more than a match for the various people who try to thwart him in his work.

We also learn more about the secret in his past which has caused him to be sidelined by his superiors.

Zen finds Perugia, the main city of Umbria, to be a strange and dangerous place, but he sticks to his task of uncovering the truth and allowing justice to prevail. By the end of the book we find out why his career was abruptly halted. But it comes as no surprise to find that he was blameless in the affair because he has already earned our respect and we find ourselves looking forward to seeing him in action again.

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