The dead man followed the track until it rose above the last remaining trees and ceased to be a rough line of beaten earth and scruffy grass, to become a stony ramp hewn out of the cliff face and deeply rutted by the abrasive force of ancient iron-rimmed cart wheels. By now il morto was clearly suffering, but he struggled on, pausing frequently to gasp for breath before tackling another stretch of the scorched rock on which the soles of his feet left bloody footprints.
Aurelio Zen's final case brings him to remote town of Calabria, at the toe of Italy's boot, on what is supposed to be a routine assignment: the death of a scout for an American film company. But the case is complicated by a group of dangerous strangers who have arrived to uncover another local mystery - buried treasure - and who will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. The case rapidly spirals out of control, and Zen must penetrate the code of silence in the tight-knit community in order to solve the crime.
If you enjoyed the Inspector Zen Mystery series you may also like The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, another crime novel by Michael Dibdin.
The wry 11th and final Insp. Aurelio Zen mystery (after 2006's Back to Bologna) will leave the series' many fans in renewed mourning for Gold Dagger winner Dibdin (1947-2007). When the corpse of American attorney Peter Newman is discovered in Calabria after an apparent botched kidnapping, Zen finds himself probing the rumor that Newman was not only born in Italy but heir to a family of southern Italian landowners. The detective must sort out other possible motives for the crime, including the dead man's work for an eccentric Hollywood producer hoping to outdo Mel Gibson with a film based on the Book of Revelations. The writing occasionally soars ("There is a unique flavor of melancholy to remote railway stations during the long intervals between the arrival and departure of trains"), and Zen's apt observations of his country's foibles and the unromantic portrayal of Calabria help to balance the sometimes brutal plot. This quirky series will be missed.