After a decomposed body is discovered in an abandoned military tunnel, Inspector Aurelio Zen travels north to the Italian Alps to investigate. At first glance, the death appears to have been an accident. But when Zen takes a closer look, a mysterious tattoo begins to tell a much more sinister tale, especially after the body is snatched from the morgue. As Zen races to discover the inner workings of a clandestine military organization named Medusa, he is reminded of just how lethal Italian history can be.
Medusa takes us on an exploration of the dark history of post-war Italy and a modern-day sightseeing tour of what Zen calls Italia Lite. In the urbane and pragmatic Zen, world-class mystery novelist Michael Dibdin has given us a detective unlike any other. And in this latest installment of this critically acclaimed series, we are treated to a mystery that drips with intrigue and a thriller so satisfying the pages cannot be turned fast enough.
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.