When the man in white appeared, blocking his path, Giacomo felt a brief surge of relief at the thought that he was no longer alone. Then he remembered where he was, and terror rose in his throat like vomit.
Aurelio Zen returns to his native Venice to investigate the disappearance of a rich American resident but he soon learns that, amid the hazy light and shifting waters of the lagoon, nothing is what it seems. As he is drawn deeper into the ambiguous mysteries surrounding the discovery of a skeletal corpse on an ossuary island in the north lagoon, he is also forced to confront a series of disturbing revelations about his own life.
If you enjoyed the Inspector Zen Mystery series you may also like The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, another crime novel by Michael Dibdin.
Always an erudite crime writer, Dibdin places complex characters into exacting plot puzzles that unfold in evocative prose rich in historical and geographic color. In the fifth case (the last was Cabal) featuring his Italian policeman Aurelio Zen, the sleuth leaves Rome for his native Venice to trace the disappearance of a wealthy businessman. While visiting the haunts of his youth and stirring fleeting memories (the name of a boyhood friend raises ``a host of remembered images... like a flock of disturbed pigeons''), Zen meets old men who confuse him with his father, who vanished mysteriously long ago. On an island used for mass burials, someone thinks he sees a vision, and a bag of heroin is misplaced. A new right-wing party is seizing power in the city, and Zen has the misfortune to fall for the estranged wife of the party leader. An old friend of his mother's, who's convinced that costumed ``Swamp-dwellers'' are invading her house, is far from credible, having been long judged unbalanced for a tale she tells of a missing daughter. Zen trails many lost people through twisting generations and winding waterways to face answers to questions he did not ask. Dibdin's mysteries are as nonlinear as the streets and canals of Venice; his prose is literate and seductive.