'As you may have gathered, there was a suicide in St Peter's this afternoon. Someone threw himself off the gallery inside the dome. Such incidents are quite common, and do not normally require the attention of this department. In the present instance, however, the victim was not some jilted maidservant or ruined shopkeeper, but Prince Ludovico Ruspanti.'
When, one dark night in November, Prince Ludovico Ruspanti fell a hundred and fifty feet to his death in the chapel at St Peter's, Rome, there were a number of questions to be answered. Did he fall or was he pushed? Inspector Aurelio Zen finds that getting the answers isn't easy, as witness after witness is mysteriously silenced - by violent death. To crack the secrets of the Vatican, Zen must penetrate the most secret place of all: the Cabal.
If you enjoyed the Inspector Zen Mystery series you may also like The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, another crime novel by Michael Dibdin.
Emblematic of the many deceptions and misconceptions upon which the latest stylish Aurelio Zen mystery turn are the layered, radical fashions of a hot new Italian designer named Falco. Introduced in Ratking , Zen is an investigator for Rome's Criminalpol. He is called from the apartment of his mistress, Tania Biacis, when an Italian aristocrat falls to his death from the observation gallery at the top of St. Peter's Basilica. In the tricky position as liaison between the Vatican Curia and Roman police, Zen is willing to confirm the former's explanation that the death was suicide, even though his investigation points to murder. But a second killing, disguised as an accident, and an anonymous letter in the newspapers suggesting the aristocrat's involvement with ``a sinister inner coterie'' in the Knights of Malta called the Cabal, sets him on a different, tortuously intricate course. Trying to promote his own interests--in particular holding on to the independent, entrepreneurial Tania, who wears Falco designs--Zen interprets the mostly unspoken expectations of the Curia and civil authorities in both Rome and Milan, where he uncovers the puzzle's solution in an Austro-French palazzo belonging to the heirs of the Falcones, a wealthy textile family. The dramatic opening in St. Peter's and its secular echo at the end effectively frame Dibdin's masterful portrayal of the complexities of Zen himself and his ornate, bureaucratic milieu in this demanding, satisfying novel.