Set in a provincial capital in Calabria, a location even more remote than Naples from Zen’s Venetian roots, we find Zen in the apparently unlooked for position of interim Chief of Police, covering for the native incumbent who is temporarily hors de combat due to an unfortunately self inflicted foot wound. Zen’s final investigation combines the old, unchanging world of the native Calabrese with the modern hi tech world of the West Coast of the USA. The clash of cultures between northerner Zen and his southerner colleagues and the community for which he finds himself responsible is less marked, but always there. And as Dibdin’s final novel brings to life a suitably wide range of characters, it is noticable that his handling of the modern (American) world is better than in Back to Bologna with references to the worlds of online gaming and Google Earth far more natural than the celebrity reality TV setting of Back to Bologna.
But the focus of End Games is Calabria, and its ancient ways of life which continue apparently impervious to incomers, whether Greek, Roman, Norman, Spanish, Albanian…. However, in this novel the incomers of interest are Alaric the Goth at the time of the Roman Empire and 21st century Americans, returning sons of Italian emigrants, entrepreneurial second generation Vietnamese and Microsoft millionaires.
Whilst End Games brings to a close – for the reader at least – the career of Aurelio Zen, I do at least have a trio of earlier investigations to enjoy – Vendetta (1990), Dead Lagoon (1994) and Cosi Fan Tutti (1996) – and I hope that in these earlier novels I’ll get to see a bit more of the man himself.
Amazon.co.uk link: End Games – Michael Dibdin