Commissario Aurelio Zen
I like to get stuck into a good crime mystery and I thoroughly enjoy Inspector Zen.
My favourite fictional detectives in modern times are Italian but whereas Montalbano is in Sicily, Zen is most decidedly in Rome. And what a Rome it is!
The ancient Roman politicians would recognise it. The wheels within wheels of intrigue, scandal and political corruption. A Rome in which connections mean everything, men scramble for favours and where Aurelio Zen fights crime, despairs of bureaucracy and frets about his mother.
The Adventures of Inspector Zen
The Aurelio Zen novels, written by Michael Dibdin and turned into three episodes of a television series are simply a delight. They're perceptive narratives about Italian culture and Italian politics with a likable main character. Even better for me, they're in English.
Rufus Sewell plays Zen in the TV series.
Scandal in high places
Zen is summoned to the Vatican to investigate the suicide - or murder - of Prince Ludovico Ruspanti, a Knight of Malta, who plummeted to his death from the dome of the basilica.
Zen is handicapped by honesty
Almost all the time
Zen is an unusual detective in Rome.
He's subtlely foreign, scion of a notable and ancient Venetian family and somehow he doesn't quite fit into the blokey atmosphere of the office. He's different.
He has a reputation for integrity too.
Everything, the clothes, the dialogue, the coffee bars, the villains are thoroughly Italian in setting and tone. No, I'll amend that, Everything is thoroughly Roman.
These novels aren't translations, they're written in English. They have puzzling mysteries, dark secrets, explosive characters all the way from dubious back streets to the Vatican. Highly enjoyable books
Your scruples do you credit, detective, but, really it's no way to get ahead, is it?
Zen is a Real Roman
Right down to his socks
One reason, apart from his educated language, that Zen doesn't have many friends at work is his first class wardrobe. All the men we see dress well (they're Roman after all) but Aurelio is impeccably attired.
He looks the part of a suave, sophisticated lady-killer but he's actually a loner. At least until he meets the new receptionist, Tania.
Separated from his wife, Zen lives in an apartment with his mother. A real romance-killer.
There's constant slight tension at home, he wants Mama to go home to Venice (she won't because Zen, minus a wife, needs 'looking after'). She, meanwhile, wants him to reconcile with his wife (so she can finally go home to Venice).
Zen is now a television series
With just 3 episodes in the series
BBC Scotland and Left Bank Pictures produced three feature-length dramas based on the Zen novels, all filmed on location in Rome during 2010 and aired in January 2011.
BBC axed the show after just one series but the producers hope to make further adaptations for another broadcaster. I hope they do!
Sewell is how I had pictured Zen
From reading the novels I had a picture of Zen in my mind already. Often this can kill my interest in a filmed portrayal of a character but not so with Aurelio.
Rufus Sewell is magnificent--funny, oddly sexy, and suitably befuddled, as the Zen character was originally writte.
He is so very much as I had imagined Zen to be, albeit better looking.
Zen, the Series - DVD
This is a Collectors Item already!
Zen finds it tough being the only honest cop in town.
As admirable as this may be, it's made him enemies and held back his career. Plotting politicians, a stressed-out boss and vengeful gangsters don't make it any easier but the addition of the clever and ambitious Tania to the team sees Zen's vigour reawakened
Breakfast in Rome
Zen waits for his first caffe and cornetto of the morning.
The locations in the series are just wonderful. Naturally, this is Rome after all.
© 2012 Susanna Duffy