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An Aurelio Zen Mystery by Michael Dibdin

Once again Detective Aurelio Zen finds himself with an awkward case to investigate that could have serious political implications.

Lake Lugano is one of the locations to which Zen's inquiries lead in Medusa
Lake Lugano is one of the locations to which
Zen's inquiries lead in Medusa
Austrian cavers exploring abandoned military tunnels in the Italian alps have discovered the body of a man at the bottom of a deep shaft.

Zen is asked to look into the case even though it has been assumed the death was accidental.

But then the body is stolen from the morgue and the Defence Ministry puts a news blackout on the case.

Zen has already been to see the cave and been given photographs of the body by the cavers.

But his superior, Brugnoli, summons him back to Rome and arranges to meet him secretly in a park to discuss the delicate political nuances.

The official line is that the body is that of a soldier who was accidentally killed during a training exercise many years ago. The defence ministry say he was a member of an elite special force modelled on the British SAS that never existed officially and therefore secrecy about the discovery has to be maintained.

Brugnoli tells him that because of the delicate state of the current political situation in Italy there is a lot at stake both for his department and the future of the country but that a skilled operator such as Zen might be able to turn up some interesting material that could be useful.

He says that ideally he wants a huge scandal that will be front page news and implicate the entire defence ministry, but that he will settle for anything that can be used against them.

Zen is to work on the case on his own and not to communicate with him overtly, but to arrange another clandestine meeting with him if necessary.

Zen’s enquiries take him to Milan, the Po Valley and Lake Lugano on the border between Italy and Switzerland. He has to operate unofficially and work round the clock but he manages to find out why the dead man was killed and by whom and achieves justice for the victim. With the help of a veteran journalist he goes to visit, he even manages to get the optimum result his superior has asked for.

Brilliantly plotted and beautifully written, I think that Medusa is one of Michael Dibdin’s finest novels and well worth reading.

I agree with one of the reviews on the back cover that says: ‘Dibdin’s Medusa is just as good as an Italian holiday.’

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(Lake Lugano picture by Jonathan Reichel via Pixabay)


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