348 393 9028: MEDUSA. After the heated pool, the air was distinctly cool, even down here in the sheltered terraces above lake Lugano. He keyed in the number, then turned to face the hillside behind the villa. The land rose precipitously, the contours marked by the looping line of Via Totone and its accompanying homes and gardens. There was no one in sight.
When a group of Austrian cavers in the Italian Alps come across human remains at the bottom of a deep shaft, everyone assumes the death was accidental - until the still unidentified body is stolen from the morgue and the Defence Ministry puts a news blackout on the case. The whole affair has the whiff of political intrigue.
The search for the truth leads Zen back into the murky history of post-war Italy and obscure corners of modern-day society to uncover the truth about a crime that everyone thought was as dead and buried as the victim.
If you enjoyed the Inspector Zen Mystery series you may also like The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, another crime novel by Michael Dibdin.
The ninth outing for Dibdin's Italian cop Aurelio Zen ranks right up there with such earlier triumphs in the series as Cabal and Dead Lagoon. The theft from the morgue of a partially mummified body, originally discovered in an abandoned military tunnel in the Italian Alps, aggravates the adversarial relationship between the Italian defense ministry and the Criminalpol, for whom Zen works under the interior ministry. When Zen gets on the case, the Caribinieri make it clear that they don't want the investigation to continue. Undeterred, Zen travels to the crime scene in the Dolomites. He quickly learns that the corpse's arm bore the tattoo of a Gorgon, a distinguishing mark of a covert 1970s paramilitary cell called Operation Medusa. Seeking other surviving members, Zen learns that one of the four was killed 25 years earlier in an airplane explosion, though no remains were recovered. Another is suddenly blown up by a car bomb. Of the two remaining members, one has strangely disappeared, and the last, now a top defense ministry agent, has strict orders to "clarify the situation" by any means necessary. As Zen races all over northern Italy in pursuit of justice, the Caribinieri take increasingly drastic measures to ensure that the dead stay buried, along with the truth. As always, Dibdin shows us in vivid, elegant prose the sociopolitical situation in Italy. The result is a slyly intelligent page-turner by a contemporary master of the form.