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In this masterpiece of psychological suspense, Italian Police Commissioner Aurelio Zen is dispatched to investigate the kidnapping of Ruggiero Miletti, a powerful Perugian industrialist. But nobody much wants Zen to succeed: not the local authorities, who view him as an interloper, and certainly not Miletti's children, who seem content to let the head of the family languis In this masterpiece of psychological suspense, Italian Police Commissioner Aurelio Zen is dispatched to investigate the kidnapping of Ruggiero Miletti, a powerful Perugian industrialist. But nobody much wants Zen to succeed: not the local authorities, who view him as an interloper, and certainly not Miletti's children, who seem content to let the head of the family languish in the hands of his abductors -- if he's still alive. Was Miletti truly the victim of professionals?  Or might his kidnapper be someone closer to home: his preening son Daniele, with his million-lire wardrobe and his profitable drug business?  His daughter, Cinzia, whose vapid beauty conceals a devastating secret? The perverse Silvio, or the eldest son Pietro, the unscrupulous fixer who manipulates the plots of others for his own ends? As Zen tries to unravel this rat's nest of family intrigue and official complicity, Michael Dibdin gives us one of his most accomplished thrillers, a chilling masterpiece of police procedure and psychological suspense.


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In this masterpiece of psychological suspense, Italian Police Commissioner Aurelio Zen is dispatched to investigate the kidnapping of Ruggiero Miletti, a powerful Perugian industrialist. But nobody much wants Zen to succeed: not the local authorities, who view him as an interloper, and certainly not Miletti's children, who seem content to let the head of the family languis In this masterpiece of psychological suspense, Italian Police Commissioner Aurelio Zen is dispatched to investigate the kidnapping of Ruggiero Miletti, a powerful Perugian industrialist. But nobody much wants Zen to succeed: not the local authorities, who view him as an interloper, and certainly not Miletti's children, who seem content to let the head of the family languish in the hands of his abductors -- if he's still alive. Was Miletti truly the victim of professionals?  Or might his kidnapper be someone closer to home: his preening son Daniele, with his million-lire wardrobe and his profitable drug business?  His daughter, Cinzia, whose vapid beauty conceals a devastating secret? The perverse Silvio, or the eldest son Pietro, the unscrupulous fixer who manipulates the plots of others for his own ends? As Zen tries to unravel this rat's nest of family intrigue and official complicity, Michael Dibdin gives us one of his most accomplished thrillers, a chilling masterpiece of police procedure and psychological suspense.

30 review for Ratking

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Inspector Aurelio Zen is transferred to Perugia to investigate the kidnapping of a wealthy phonograph manufacturer. Dibdin does a good job of showing the casual politics and rampant favoritism of the Italian justice system, and gives us a good crime yarn as well. Dibdin is a sharp observer, intelligent and analytical, and he writes with style.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cphe

    Overall I enjoyed this mystery/ police procedural but when I finished the novel I had the feeling that I should have enjoyed it more. Thought the premise of the story well presented but had the overall impression that it wasn't as concisely written as I wanted to read. Aurelio Zen was an interesting character, he was obviously intelligent and understood the machinations and deviousness involved in running a police investigation that he really wasn't meant to solve. A loner taking on the establish Overall I enjoyed this mystery/ police procedural but when I finished the novel I had the feeling that I should have enjoyed it more. Thought the premise of the story well presented but had the overall impression that it wasn't as concisely written as I wanted to read. Aurelio Zen was an interesting character, he was obviously intelligent and understood the machinations and deviousness involved in running a police investigation that he really wasn't meant to solve. A loner taking on the establishment. Loved the Italian setting and not quite knowing with absolute certainty who the "bad guys" were. Great atmosphere another from "The Guardian 1000" book list.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anne (Booklady) Molinarolo

    My first encounter with Golden Dagger Award winning author Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen Series was watching PBS Masterpiece Mystery! one Sunday night. The onscreen Aurelio is somewhat younger and darker than the one in RATKING. Here we are introduced to this anti-hero and taste the late Dibdin’s irony and black humour in Zen’s persona that the telecast so aptly captures. As with new introductions, the reader isn’t sure of Zen. His opening scene shows us an indifferent policeman. Aurelio sits by My first encounter with Golden Dagger Award winning author Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen Series was watching PBS Masterpiece Mystery! one Sunday night. The onscreen Aurelio is somewhat younger and darker than the one in RATKING. Here we are introduced to this anti-hero and taste the late Dibdin’s irony and black humour in Zen’s persona that the telecast so aptly captures. As with new introductions, the reader isn’t sure of Zen. His opening scene shows us an indifferent policeman. Aurelio sits by idly during a robbery on a train to Rome all the while his fellow compartment companions berate him for his inaction. Rather than defending himself, he debarks and calls the local authorities to handle the situation. Is our protagonist corrupt or inept? The answer is much more complex; Aurelio Zen isn’t an active inspector because of a failed kidnapping investigation years earlier. Zen is also an outsider. He is Venetian, the wrong part of Italy for many in the police force and the Judiciary. He even has an American girlfriend! So when political pressure is applied to a well placed Senator in Rome, Police Commissioner Aurelio Zen is the perfect choice to go to Perugia to investigate the kidnapping of prominent industrialist Ruggiero Miletti that has stalled. It soon dawns on Zen that no one expects him to succeed; that his presence is only for show. The local authorities and the communist investigating magistrate view him as an unnecessary interloper, yet one who can manipulate to achieve their own political agenda against the Miletti family. The Miletti children seem content with the absence of their father and are uncooperative with the authorities. Each has a secret as well as reasons to allow Ruggiero languish in the hands of the kidnappers. Is the answer that simple or close? Zen is determined to find out much to the chagrin of all. The plot is a perfect mix of atmosphere and puzzle. The characters are strong, though Zen is slightly underdeveloped as any protagonist is in book 1 of a series. Perugia, Italy becomes a familiar old friend as the reader walks its streets with Aurelio. However, one weakness prevented me from rating this 1988 Golden Dagger Award winning novel 5 stars is Dibdin’s excessive use of italics in phone dialogues, thoughts, and poster board content. I found some passages confusing and had to re-read some before becoming at ease with this literary technique. And lordy mercy, how many times may an author use “dottore”? But on the whole, RATKING was a very satisfying suspenseful read!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kia

    Like many of the reviews on this book, I turned to this book mostly after learning there was a Masterpiece Mystery series (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/zen/) coming out based on these books. And like many of the others, I find myself comparing Rufus Seawell's Zen with the character Dibdin created. That's almost always a mistake. I can't say that I don't like Dibdin's Zen, I think I prefer the version written for Masterpiece. Dibdin's Zen is a restless man in his 50s struggling with the fa Like many of the reviews on this book, I turned to this book mostly after learning there was a Masterpiece Mystery series (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/zen/) coming out based on these books. And like many of the others, I find myself comparing Rufus Seawell's Zen with the character Dibdin created. That's almost always a mistake. I can't say that I don't like Dibdin's Zen, I think I prefer the version written for Masterpiece. Dibdin's Zen is a restless man in his 50s struggling with the fading of a career that hasn't fulfilled his plans. He also deals with a mother who is either losing her memory or her grip on reality, but this is so much a part of his everyday life he doesn't seem to "struggle" with this as much as float above it. The Masterpiece version is a good and decent man who is regarded as being above moral reproach. A moral center in a corrupt world. He's trying to be a good son, a good cop and win over a beautiful coworker who's in a bad marriage. His own marital state is never at issue, his estranged wife has a lover and isn't interested in remaining married to him. I take issue with every review I read calling this a "psychological thriller", I don't know where that started, but it's wrong. Police Procedural, yes. Psychological Thriller, no. I did think Zen was getting screwed with, but it had nothing to do with psychology and everything to do with everyone in Perugia resenting this outsider sticking his nose into affairs that were none of his business. After getting past the idea that these are not the same characters, I still can't decide if I liked this book well enough to read another. There is an assumption that the reader will have more than a passing knowledge of internal Italian politics. I'm reminded of an anthropology paper I wrote during college. The assignment was to write about an event we'd seen or participated in that would be foreign to outsiders. We were to write it as a cultural anthropologist would have. I wrote about a Piping Ashore Ceremony I'd attended for a Senior Chief Petty Officer who retired after a 20+ year career. I started out fine, defining terms, explaining what the outsider would have seen and heard and what it meant. At some point, I switched into an insider recounting this beautiful service and forget to explain the traditions. My professor reminded me that I'd forgotten my reader didn't know what I knew and walked away no more informed about this incredible experience. Dibdin gave me a sense of this beautiful town, Perugia and it's people, but I'm no better informed about Italy's police and justice system. I feel the need to study up on the Questura, Carabinieri and the Magistrates before I tackle another one of these books. Will I read another? Maybe. Dibdin won awards for this first book of the series, but perhaps as so many writers do, he got better with later books. I haven't given up yet, but life is too short to read bad books. I'll stumble across another book in this series and give it a try.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Linn

    I got this book because I really liked the show. And as it was cancelled way to early, I was hoping to get even more from the books. I don't often say this, but the book was not better. It's obviously unfair blaming a book because it wasn't like a TV show it has inspired, but I was just so disappointed. Gone was the fun, the witty, smart and sexy detective, the charming Italian stuff. Instead we got dark, moody, corrupt and gritty. Zen is in his 50s in the book, unsure of himself, disillusioned, a I got this book because I really liked the show. And as it was cancelled way to early, I was hoping to get even more from the books. I don't often say this, but the book was not better. It's obviously unfair blaming a book because it wasn't like a TV show it has inspired, but I was just so disappointed. Gone was the fun, the witty, smart and sexy detective, the charming Italian stuff. Instead we got dark, moody, corrupt and gritty. Zen is in his 50s in the book, unsure of himself, disillusioned, and at times close to a break down. I've really had my fill of that kind of broken detective, and it was just boring where it should have been fun and colourful. Of course it doesn't help that I knew the plot from watching the series, but I'm unsure I would have found it riveting even if I didn't. It reminded me a little of The Blind Man of Seville by Robert Wilson (another British writer trying to capture that Mediterranean feel), which was a book I positively hated. So there you have it, major disappointment and it was an effort to finish it. Yet it might be other people's cup of tea.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Murray

    The first Aurelio Zen novel as far as I am aware. A wonderful read that really does evoke Italy in some beautifully turned prose. Dibdin's plots are always carefully put together, and you are kept guessing a lot in this book. What a ratking actually is, is a wonderful metaphor for what happens in this book. This, and Cosi Fan Tutti are the best of this series. The first Aurelio Zen novel as far as I am aware. A wonderful read that really does evoke Italy in some beautifully turned prose. Dibdin's plots are always carefully put together, and you are kept guessing a lot in this book. What a ratking actually is, is a wonderful metaphor for what happens in this book. This, and Cosi Fan Tutti are the best of this series.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Campbell

    I need to re-read these in order to be able to say something more coherent than 'Zen is a great character, you should read these books'. Realistically, that's not going to happen. But you should take my advice, nonetheless :) I need to re-read these in order to be able to say something more coherent than 'Zen is a great character, you should read these books'. Realistically, that's not going to happen. But you should take my advice, nonetheless :)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Shane Lusher

    I really wanted to give the book more than three stars. The language is great, and though it was writting in the 80s, i.e. not so long ago, I had the feeling I was taking part in an old European mystery, á la Orient Express. The characters are also well-developed, or at least very well described, and again, the language throughout the book is refreshing considering what sometimes passes for great English crime writing nowadays. The book is a detective novel through-and-through, and not a thriller, I really wanted to give the book more than three stars. The language is great, and though it was writting in the 80s, i.e. not so long ago, I had the feeling I was taking part in an old European mystery, á la Orient Express. The characters are also well-developed, or at least very well described, and again, the language throughout the book is refreshing considering what sometimes passes for great English crime writing nowadays. The book is a detective novel through-and-through, and not a thriller, and yet I felt that the plot could have moved forward more quickly. With only fifty pages to go, I had to almost force myself to finish the book, not because I already knew whodunit, but because of the aforementioned positive qualities of the book. The problem was that the book seemed to wrap up at that point, without revealing the culprit. The action seemed to have resolved, and when the criminal was revealed, finally, at the very end, it wasn't much of a surprise. Certainly it had been alluded to many times over during the course of the book. I suppose I kept reading because I thought it must have been someone else.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mommalibrarian

    ". . . a distinguished-looking man of about fifty with a pale face whose most striking feature was a nose as sharply triangular as the jib of a sailing boat. There was a faintly exotic air about him, as though he were Greek or Levantine. His expression was cynical, suave and aloof, and a distant smile flickered on his lips. But it was his eyes that compelled attention. They were gray with glints of blue, and held sinister stillness which made Veronese shiver. A cold fish, this one, he thought." I ". . . a distinguished-looking man of about fifty with a pale face whose most striking feature was a nose as sharply triangular as the jib of a sailing boat. There was a faintly exotic air about him, as though he were Greek or Levantine. His expression was cynical, suave and aloof, and a distant smile flickered on his lips. But it was his eyes that compelled attention. They were gray with glints of blue, and held sinister stillness which made Veronese shiver. A cold fish, this one, he thought." I never get a complete picture of the hero, policeman Dottore Aurelio Zen and I think this is a good thing. It kept me paying attention and trying to figure it out. The mystery is equally obscured. The hints dropped were also easy to miss. Good intellectual exercise for my mind.

  10. 4 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    I have no idea why anybody would compare Dibdin with Chandler: he is wordy where Chandler is minimalist, verging on sentimental where Chandler is cynical. Could two characters be more different than Zen and Marlowe? Zen who lives with his mother and isn't going to give that up for all the sex in China and - Marlowe?! Good book. Chandler it ain't. I have no idea why anybody would compare Dibdin with Chandler: he is wordy where Chandler is minimalist, verging on sentimental where Chandler is cynical. Could two characters be more different than Zen and Marlowe? Zen who lives with his mother and isn't going to give that up for all the sex in China and - Marlowe?! Good book. Chandler it ain't.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alejandrina

    A tight mystery, beautifully written. Like many other authors whose mysteries happen in Italy (Donna Leon, Andrea Camilleri), there is plenty of social and political commentary. Can't wait to read the next one. A tight mystery, beautifully written. Like many other authors whose mysteries happen in Italy (Donna Leon, Andrea Camilleri), there is plenty of social and political commentary. Can't wait to read the next one.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ross

    Enjoyable, layered criminal mystery set in late 1980’s Italy. A selection of my mystery book group, the story centers on the kidnapping of an Italian industrialist, whose children harbor many secrets and may or may not want him to be returned. I liked the book’s insightful discussions of regional Italian cultural differences, the civil service system and the endemic societal corruption that pervades too much of daily life. Italian regions. Also liked Zen’s back story. This is the first book in t Enjoyable, layered criminal mystery set in late 1980’s Italy. A selection of my mystery book group, the story centers on the kidnapping of an Italian industrialist, whose children harbor many secrets and may or may not want him to be returned. I liked the book’s insightful discussions of regional Italian cultural differences, the civil service system and the endemic societal corruption that pervades too much of daily life. Italian regions. Also liked Zen’s back story. This is the first book in the Commissioner Zen series; though it was slow in places I will read another book in this series. Of the three Italian detective series I have read this year (Commissioner Zen, Commissioner Montalbano and Marshall Guarnaccia), this book had the most developed character (I liked Zen’s back story) and plot. 3.5 stars.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    I'm not the most widely read person in the world of detective / mystery novels, so perhaps I'm not the best judge of works like this. I thought this had good points and bad points. The good were that it had an interesting setting - italian police work, mired in mafia, corruption, power and feuds is a fertile ground for a detective writer and Dibden makes good use of it, setting the novel in the slightly smaller province of Perugia, rather than Rome or Sicily, and using a well-known, dysfunctional I'm not the most widely read person in the world of detective / mystery novels, so perhaps I'm not the best judge of works like this. I thought this had good points and bad points. The good were that it had an interesting setting - italian police work, mired in mafia, corruption, power and feuds is a fertile ground for a detective writer and Dibden makes good use of it, setting the novel in the slightly smaller province of Perugia, rather than Rome or Sicily, and using a well-known, dysfunctional, wealthy family as the protagonists, with all the leeway that gives you for family politics, secrets, and backstabbing. The bad points were that I thought it over-written. The plot didn't justify the time taken to tell it. At no point did I feel on the edge of my seat or at all tense. There didn't seem to be any urgency about the detection - despite it being about a kidnapping - or in the telling. Zen seemed a cookie-cutter "detective that's been screwed by the system with personal troubles" and didn't really stand out as a character that could hold a long novel series, with no real ticks or traits that distinguished him from dozens of other novel detectives. Yes, he cleverly tricks folk at the end, but that all seemed to be about getting the novel finished than because of Aurelio Zen himself. So, a decent story, competently told. But I hope that the series gets better because there's about another 4 of Dibdin's novels on this Guardian list and I hope that they're better than this one.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Realini

    Ratking by Michael Dibdin 10 out of 10 This story is about Zen…no, not that Buddhist Zen, as in the story of the Zen Master who has his horse run away and villagers come to him to express sympathy for the loss, only to hear him say ‘we shall see’, then when his lost animal returns with a bunch of wild horses, the community comes to share their joy and they hear the same ‘we shall see’, and when the son of the Zen Master breaks a leg trying to tame one of the wild horses, the community is there to Ratking by Michael Dibdin 10 out of 10 This story is about Zen…no, not that Buddhist Zen, as in the story of the Zen Master who has his horse run away and villagers come to him to express sympathy for the loss, only to hear him say ‘we shall see’, then when his lost animal returns with a bunch of wild horses, the community comes to share their joy and they hear the same ‘we shall see’, and when the son of the Zen Master breaks a leg trying to tame one of the wild horses, the community is there to show their pain, met with…you guessed it ‘we shall see’ and the story continues with the army recruiting young ones for their ranks and the son is spared, due to the broken leg and…’we shall see’ Ratking has Aurelio Zen at the center, as the police commissioner that had been working on the famous Aldo Moro kidnapping that had taken place in Italy, which the high ranking officials that were part of the Ratking network at the time had not wanted the investigators to solve and when the hero and one of his colleagues got too close to solving the enigma, the latter got killed and Zen was sent to work at Housekeeping, travelling to commissariats across Italy, trying to see if there are contracts that misappropriate funds, in other words he is sidelined until a phone call from Perugia is placed, demanding a favor, as was and maybe is the norm in Italy, in our lands and in so many other places – such as America, where BLM and other protesters are spayed with rubber bullets, while right wing nuts are spared, when they invade public institutions and demand for the beheading of the governor of Minnesota and bring guns along with them. Ruggiero Miletti, a powerful business man from Perugia had been kidnapped quite a few months ago, a ransom had been asked for and paid, but he is still unaccounted for and thus one of his many friends places a call to Rome to demand that the officials – he calls an influential senator – dispatch someone to save the life of the rather old man, who may rot somewhere on a farm, in the cold, since the negotiations have stalled and the impasse may last for long enough for the victim to expire and since thy find nobody else available for the mission, the one who had been once destined to become vice- questor and then perhaps promoted to questor, commissioner Zen is moved from Housekeeping to ‘active investigation’ and sent to Perugia where the web of connections, antipathies, political sympathies and animosities is very entangled and he hears the story of the Ratking… As they live in too close quarters, sometimes in spaces that allow for little or no movement, rats can and do become entangled with each other, so much so that they depend on one other and have to find a way to co-exist for they do not know when one is no longer viable, which one of them it is and this would become a metaphor for what is going on in Perugia and by extension in Italy and this being such a phenomenal book, you can read in it and understand better the ways of the world, from America to china and Russia, since everywhere politicians and business people have connections with each other – in cleaner states, such as in Scandinavia and Singapore, the bonds are almost always clean, but in most of the world they suffer from various degrees of corruption – and we have around the planet a myriad of Ratkings, both from the animal and the human world. Very soon, the negotiator that had a connection with the gang of kidnappers is killed and the presumption is that he has seen and possibly recognized one of the criminals and thus he became able to talk to the police and prosecutors –in Italy and other places, there seems to be a complicated structure and both of them are involved, not to mention the politicians that pull the strings and solve inquiries in their favor…in the case of the Miletti family, one of the sons of the kidnapped head of the family, Daniele, had been involved in drug trafficking with a German man called Manfred and others and when the investigators established the connections, they have been pressed to drop the case and let the guilty parties walk free. The communist prosecutor assigned to the killing is sure that the Milettis have staged the kidnap to help them with their financial issues – given that the company has faced pressures, competition, they need to find a way and one option would be to get the Japanese to pay money, interested as they were at the time for a solid brand to promote their products, which had been for a time novelties and without the reputation for quality and friability which is long established in the present, but the patriarch is not favorable to this alternative, which is embraced by his son in law, married to his daughter Cinzia, the latter being the child that her father had…raped, for this is a narrative that includes all the sins of the world, from murder to incest, it has kidnapping and political machinations, but also child molesting. Pietro Miletti, the eldest of the family, has decided to stay away from Perugia and prefers Great Britain to his home country, while Silvio, if not the child molester his father is, does have some very disturbing inclinations, nay, they are more than that, albeit to label this perversion in an age of freedom, where everyone is free to indulge his preferences as long as it is in private and they do not involve harm to others – well, even that must be tolerated, ignored, if it is within limits and between consenting adults that like to be humiliated, punished – the problems with these inclinations were first the period, which was less tolerant that it is now in many parts of the world – albeit it is difficult to draw lines and in what regards attitudes towards women, there is a different take now on those in the sex industry, sex workers can operate legally in Germany and other places, but in the Nordic countries the man is guilty if he solicits, pays for sex Then there was the question of the humiliation that is in part explained in the book and was preferred by Silvio, who wanted men to…shit on him among other things and when a detective was paid by Cinzia’s husband to find more information of his brother in law, so that he can blackmail him and eventually get control over his quarter of the shares in the Miletti company, on top of the quarter that his wife would inherit, he obtained some very revealing photographs, with Silvio wearing a blonde wig, having his nipples pierced and dog collars attached to them, waiting under a toilet that was attached to his chest for men to come and defecate on his chest, in a club in Berlin…pictures that would be eventually used by Aurelio Zen to get to the truth of the crimes committed in this complex detective story. Silvio the homosexual is entangled in a relationship with Ivy, the American secretary that had been involved in blackmail, seems to have some characteristics that attract gay men, for she had had a boss that prefers men, used her to cover that secret in the macho Italian society of the day, introduced her to Silvio who is very attached to the women that will play a vital role in the story, the one that drives the car when an appointment with the gang of kidnappers is established and commissioner Zen is kicked unconscious, left for dead and maybe saved at the last moment in this phenomenal crime saga.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Becky Hoffman

    Ratking follows Dottore Aurelio Zen as he is literally pushed into the detective world once more after being a paper-pusher with the police for four years. He was shamed after a case went bad and put on desk duty indefinitely. He's put in a no win position as an officer as he tries to bring Riggerio Milleti back home. Milleti has been kidnapped and held for ransom for months while his crazy family bickers and fights over every penny that goes into the ransom money. The book follows the inner work Ratking follows Dottore Aurelio Zen as he is literally pushed into the detective world once more after being a paper-pusher with the police for four years. He was shamed after a case went bad and put on desk duty indefinitely. He's put in a no win position as an officer as he tries to bring Riggerio Milleti back home. Milleti has been kidnapped and held for ransom for months while his crazy family bickers and fights over every penny that goes into the ransom money. The book follows the inner workings of a corrupt family and how with the money and power they have, can turn the government and police force any way they choose. Some people on the police force get fed up with this and try to ruin the family and Zen is caught in the middle of all of this, only able to smile and nod throughout the whole ordeal. At first, Aurelio Zen seems like a very vapid character. He practically shows no emotion whatsoever and just walks around the world waiting for his existence to end. But the moments when we slip into Zen's mind, whether he's spacing out in the car or dreaming, it's only then we get to see the complexities that make up Aurelio Zen. His distant outlook is because of the way he's been beaten down by Italian politics and how he is utterly helpless to change his own outcome and future. But when he's given a chance to prove himself in the Milleti kidnapping, it blows up in his face. It almost seems like Zen is ready to rollover, accept what was happening as another moment he has to just helplessly sit back and wait for everyone to finish their Tour de' Trample over his backside, but instead he starts to put pieces together and discover who the real culprit is and comes up with a clever way of bringing them to justice. This books was entertaining and kept me up until the wee hours of the morning because I couldn't wait to see what Zen, or for that matter, the crazy Milleti family was going to do next. Very good and worth the read. Plus check out the BBC show 'Zen', which is based off of these novels.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Davis Pan

    "What is a Ratking? the king rat... no. A ratking is something that happens when too many rats live in too small a space under too much pressure. Their tail becomes entwined and the more they strain and stretch to free themselves the tighter grows the knot binding them until at last it becomes a sold mass of embedded tissues. And the creature thus formed, as many as thirty rats tied together by the tail, is called a ratking." The Ratking understood as an isolated malaise that aggregates into a p "What is a Ratking? the king rat... no. A ratking is something that happens when too many rats live in too small a space under too much pressure. Their tail becomes entwined and the more they strain and stretch to free themselves the tighter grows the knot binding them until at last it becomes a sold mass of embedded tissues. And the creature thus formed, as many as thirty rats tied together by the tail, is called a ratking." The Ratking understood as an isolated malaise that aggregates into a power base where the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts ... is an ample metaphor for the stark darkness and the chiarroscurro neorealism that underlies Michael Dibdin crime novels on police inspector Aurelio Zen. Set in the central Italian town of Perugia in late 1980s, Ratking narrates the dramas of the city's most powerful family, the Miletti's, whose patriarch Ruggiero Miletti has been upducted and held for ransom by kidnappers. As far as Crime fiction books go the plot line is pretty standard fare, however what makes a Dibdin novel shine is the masterful buildup of narrative. Slow, precise and methodical, Dibdin's plot development resembles a chess master setting up an end game gambit. The flow is rhythmic and punctuated with a kaleidoscope of words and images. A Dibdin novel is crime fiction for the literate for those who love language and the craft of words. Like a poker player who masks his countenance behind shaded sunglasses, Dibdin brilliantly conceals the true character of the novel's key protagonist, Detective Aurelio Zen. Is he a beacon of light upholding justice in a corrupt society or just another crooked tail entwined in society's ratking? The answer is never revealed, it is left to the reader to decide.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    Ratking is the first book in the Aurelio Zen mystery series by Michael Dibdin. I first became aware of the series when it was turned into a British TV series starring Rufus Sewell as Inspector Zen. When I discovered it was based on a book series, I had to try and find a copy. Zen is a disgraced Italian Criminal Investigator who has been placed into an administrative position due to events that resulted in the kidnapping of former Italian PM Aldo Moro. As a result of a series of phone calls he is Ratking is the first book in the Aurelio Zen mystery series by Michael Dibdin. I first became aware of the series when it was turned into a British TV series starring Rufus Sewell as Inspector Zen. When I discovered it was based on a book series, I had to try and find a copy. Zen is a disgraced Italian Criminal Investigator who has been placed into an administrative position due to events that resulted in the kidnapping of former Italian PM Aldo Moro. As a result of a series of phone calls he is placed back into the investigation service to help solve a kidnapping of a wealthy industrialist in the North of Italy, in Perugia. He basically finds himself in a no-win situation. The local police resent him being there and the family of the kidnappee are suspected of involvement. It's a meandering sort of case as Zen works to find the kidnappee and also the kidnappers. Events take a bad turn when a body is found and Zen finds himself being used as a scapegoat for the lack of success. With nothing to lose, he works against the system and time to solve the kidnapping and murder(s). I enjoyed the story although I do think I preferred the TV series. However, it was interesting to see the Italian political system at work and to get to know Zen. It was also interesting trying to compare Zen to one of my favourite Italian police inspectors, Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti. I'll have to keep reading to see if Zen can live up to Brunetti. (3.5 stars)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charles Gates

    Dibdin was recommended to me when I asked a bookseller for a mystery writer with a good sense of place, like Donna Leon (for Venice) or Tony Hillerman (Navajo country). This story takes place in Perugia, and Dibdin, who taught there, certainly knows the streets, hills, and cafes, and the people, but it's not a particularly appealing or informative treatment. The tone is bleak. I have no wish to go there (in contrast with Venice or Arizona-New Mexico). So that leaves the mystery itself. The struc Dibdin was recommended to me when I asked a bookseller for a mystery writer with a good sense of place, like Donna Leon (for Venice) or Tony Hillerman (Navajo country). This story takes place in Perugia, and Dibdin, who taught there, certainly knows the streets, hills, and cafes, and the people, but it's not a particularly appealing or informative treatment. The tone is bleak. I have no wish to go there (in contrast with Venice or Arizona-New Mexico). So that leaves the mystery itself. The structure is ambitious, with a complex mystery (about a kidnapping and two murders) neatly resolved at the end. But Aurelio Zen, the police detective, I found excessively dour; moreover, I couldn't always follow his leaps of logic. The villains (an industrialist family and retainers) were monochromatic. Even the revelations of scandalous behavior (incest and odd masochistic homosexual activities) fell flat; I didn't care enough for the characters to feel the impact. Finally, the actual murderer (of murder no. 2) is someone who is portrayed throughout most of the book as being as dull as dishwater. Learning who did it was an anti-climactic moment, a disappointment to me as a mystery reader (even if credible, in terms of the story). But this book was Dibdin's first Aurelio Zen. I'll try another, but later in the series, looking for a well plotted mystery and hoping for a more nuanced development of characters.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    Even better than the PBS series dramatization Zen! One thing in particular I don't remember from the show is the definition of the term 'ratking' -- in the book, this occurs in Chapter 3: 'Bartocci shook his head. " ... A ratking is something that happens when too many rats have to live in too small a space under too much pressure. Their tails become entwined and the more they strain and stretch to free themselves the tighter grows the knot binding them, until at last it becomes a solid mass of e Even better than the PBS series dramatization Zen! One thing in particular I don't remember from the show is the definition of the term 'ratking' -- in the book, this occurs in Chapter 3: 'Bartocci shook his head. " ... A ratking is something that happens when too many rats have to live in too small a space under too much pressure. Their tails become entwined and the more they strain and stretch to free themselves the tighter grows the knot binding them, until at last it becomes a solid mass of embedded tissue. And the creature thus formed, as many as thirty rats tied together by the tail, is called a ratking. You wouldn't expect such a living contradiction to survive, would you? That's the most amazing thing of all. Most of the ratkings that are discovered, in the plaster of old houses or beneath the floorboards of a barn, are heathy and flourishing. ..."' Ewww! But this definition colored my reading of what followed in Zen's investigation into the kidnapping of Ruggerio Miletti. I also love how Dibdin brought this definition back into play when discussing how Zen planned to crack the case at the end.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kaycie

    I think Dibdin did a GREAT job portraying Italian culture and politics at this time, and I think that was my favorite part of the book. Its not always obvious, but there were lots of small, fun tidbits, such as the Venetians speaking in dialect or mocking other's accents. The corruption and "favor-driven" politics were also quite telling, but were a more prominent (less subtle, I mean) part of the story. I had no idea this was a TV series, and I might need to look into it. Overall, I was slightly I think Dibdin did a GREAT job portraying Italian culture and politics at this time, and I think that was my favorite part of the book. Its not always obvious, but there were lots of small, fun tidbits, such as the Venetians speaking in dialect or mocking other's accents. The corruption and "favor-driven" politics were also quite telling, but were a more prominent (less subtle, I mean) part of the story. I had no idea this was a TV series, and I might need to look into it. Overall, I was slightly disappointed in the crime-solving aspect, as it annoys me (view spoiler)[when the detective gets clues that he doesn't relay to the reader, making it impossible for the reader to do any more than guess at the killer. (hide spoiler)] It also seems to me like the real character development will occur over the series and not in any one single book, which makes it seem like I need to read all of the books in order to get the full benefit from the characters and backstory in the plot...also slightly disappointing from a read. Overall, though, exciting book that I didn't want to stop reading, and I enjoyed the nuances in plot and insight into Italian culture.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I've been meaning to get into the Aurelio Zen series for a while now. Just somehow Dibdin never got to the top of the 'to read' pile. It got a meteoric rise to the top when the BBC screened adaptations of the books. I had to get to know Zen myself before I saw someone else's interpretation of him. Zen's a Venetian living and working in Rome, sent to work on a case in Perugia. He's pretty typical of fictional detectives. There's nothing super original in the character so far. The interesting part I've been meaning to get into the Aurelio Zen series for a while now. Just somehow Dibdin never got to the top of the 'to read' pile. It got a meteoric rise to the top when the BBC screened adaptations of the books. I had to get to know Zen myself before I saw someone else's interpretation of him. Zen's a Venetian living and working in Rome, sent to work on a case in Perugia. He's pretty typical of fictional detectives. There's nothing super original in the character so far. The interesting part of the book comes at looking at the day to day corruption in Italy. Something that never fails to fascinate me. The case Zen's sent to solve is a pretty interesting tale. Kept my attention throughout and kept me interested to see who was guilty, who was innocent and who was in the grey areas. The thing I liked most about the book is the sense of place the author gives. His descriptions of Italy are great. When a book makes me want to buy a 'plane ticket it's doing something right. 4 out of 5 pawprints. I'm looking forward to the second book in the series :-)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mike Briggs

    The book started out being interesting. Rich head of family kidnapped before the start of the book. Old family friend calls up his high level contacts with the government to get them to send a high ranking Roman police officer to take over the case. It has been many months since the old man was kidnapped without progress. The man character, Aurelio Zen, started off seeming to be a likeable guy. He was always drifting away in the book. Mind miles away from the case or what was going on around him. The book started out being interesting. Rich head of family kidnapped before the start of the book. Old family friend calls up his high level contacts with the government to get them to send a high ranking Roman police officer to take over the case. It has been many months since the old man was kidnapped without progress. The man character, Aurelio Zen, started off seeming to be a likeable guy. He was always drifting away in the book. Mind miles away from the case or what was going on around him. He was portrayed in the book as rather timid, worried about basically everything, and maybe a little incompetent. Though that was under review throughout the book. Competency. The last paragraph of the book, or somewhere in the last chapter, was a brief uplift which kept the book from being rated anything worse than three stars. I had looked around in the library for the sequel in this long series. When I was at about page 45. Now . . . now I’m not sure if I’ll read another book by Dibdin.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    This is the second Dibdin novel about detective Aurelio Zen that I have read. I think this series is OK, but prefer Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri, whose writing is sharper. The best thing about Zen is that he is a fresh break with so many anglo-saxon detectives with their broken marriages, drink problems and demons. While he is separated from his wife, he lives with his mother and functions as a man. The problems he faces are very Italian, in that he is surrounded by corruption and nepotism. He This is the second Dibdin novel about detective Aurelio Zen that I have read. I think this series is OK, but prefer Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri, whose writing is sharper. The best thing about Zen is that he is a fresh break with so many anglo-saxon detectives with their broken marriages, drink problems and demons. While he is separated from his wife, he lives with his mother and functions as a man. The problems he faces are very Italian, in that he is surrounded by corruption and nepotism. He is usually required by his bosses to resolve a case one way, while politicians or other influential figures will ruin him if he doesn't do the exact opposite. How he treads through this minefield is the sweet part of the stories. In Ratking he investigates the kidnap of a powerful industrialist, trying to work out which member of his miserably rich family might be behind it, while at the same time attempting to keep alive his romantic life and resurrect his career.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    After enjoying the recent PBS series about Aurelio Zen I decided to see what the original was like. As it turned out, the plot of the first TV show was only slightly related to the plot of the novel. "Inspired by" would almost be an exaggeration. Even Zen himself was quite different--the only thing that seemed consistent between the series and the first book was the tone, the paranoid sense of multiple levels of interest, both in the police and in the suspects, the feeling that everything in Ita After enjoying the recent PBS series about Aurelio Zen I decided to see what the original was like. As it turned out, the plot of the first TV show was only slightly related to the plot of the novel. "Inspired by" would almost be an exaggeration. Even Zen himself was quite different--the only thing that seemed consistent between the series and the first book was the tone, the paranoid sense of multiple levels of interest, both in the police and in the suspects, the feeling that everything in Italian public life is corrupt. A ratking, by the way, is not the king of the rats--for a full description of the actual thing, see the Wikipedia entry for the word. It is a metaphor both for the circle of possible suspects in this book, for the local politics in Perugia, and for the criminal justice system in Italy. The writing is very detailed, and the plot is intricate. An OK read, but unappealing characters and an enigmatic detective. I probably won't be reading another one.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Another Italian mystery series, this one set in Rome and, in this case, Perugia. Since we were recently in both of these places, I could envision the locations. BBC did a 3 episode series called Zen (Aurileo Zen is the detective) that I quite liked, so I decided to start the book series. Quirky writing, quirky character, and for the first half of the book I was sure it would be the last in the series that I would read. But bit by bit I caught on to the cadence of the writing, got a feel for the Another Italian mystery series, this one set in Rome and, in this case, Perugia. Since we were recently in both of these places, I could envision the locations. BBC did a 3 episode series called Zen (Aurileo Zen is the detective) that I quite liked, so I decided to start the book series. Quirky writing, quirky character, and for the first half of the book I was sure it would be the last in the series that I would read. But bit by bit I caught on to the cadence of the writing, got a feel for the characters, culture, and cynicism, and by the end I quite enjoyed the character Zen, and even the quirky (but often evocative) writing. I just downloaded the second book, Vendetta, and...we'll see. To my mystery-reading friends: the jury is still out. Not recommending it yet, and not sure I will in any event. It may or not appeal to you, unlike Gamache and Brunetti, whom I recommend without reservation. I'll let you know what I think after I read one more!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Fischman

    This is actually the second time I read this book, and I still enjoyed it very much, but some of the problems of a first book showed up more starkly upon rereading. The plot is unnecessarily complicated. Out of a group of seven mystery readers I discussed the book with, exactly none of us were sure who killed Ubaldo Valesio. And to my mind, the incest subplot was gratuitous. True, it added another possible motive for killing Ruggiero Miletti, but that character didn't really need an additional m This is actually the second time I read this book, and I still enjoyed it very much, but some of the problems of a first book showed up more starkly upon rereading. The plot is unnecessarily complicated. Out of a group of seven mystery readers I discussed the book with, exactly none of us were sure who killed Ubaldo Valesio. And to my mind, the incest subplot was gratuitous. True, it added another possible motive for killing Ruggiero Miletti, but that character didn't really need an additional motive. What makes this book so much worth reading is a) the quality of the writing, b) the character of the detective, Aurelio Zen, and c) the way it portrays the feeling of a country under political siege like Italy when Aldo Moro was assassinated. It resonates with how it feels to live in the U.S. in an age of "homeland security." I strongly recommend this entire series.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Donald Schopflocher

    A disgraced Italian police commissioner is sent as a political favour to investigate a kidnapping in the provinces. Manipulated at every turn, he eventually uses his powers of observation and deduction plus some unorthodox methods to unravel the case. Both a police procedural set in an unfamiliar country and political setting where corruption is rampant, and a challenge to the reader to solve the crime in the tradition established by Conan Doyle, this is the first novel in a well-regarded series A disgraced Italian police commissioner is sent as a political favour to investigate a kidnapping in the provinces. Manipulated at every turn, he eventually uses his powers of observation and deduction plus some unorthodox methods to unravel the case. Both a police procedural set in an unfamiliar country and political setting where corruption is rampant, and a challenge to the reader to solve the crime in the tradition established by Conan Doyle, this is the first novel in a well-regarded series, now over with the death of its author in 2007. Well written, this is another series worth digging up, though.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Fasching-Gray

    He seems like a good guy, I mean, he is the good guy, but when you take a step back and think about it, he's more like a fixer with no loyalty. It's all motivated by self-preservation, but in an Italy where pure corruption has replaced political motivation, not getting killed equals becoming one of them, if only a little. The dialog gets that why me/poor you Italian thing perfect and it's all very funny. Also: it is probably healthier to read books where the detectives drink too much espresso th He seems like a good guy, I mean, he is the good guy, but when you take a step back and think about it, he's more like a fixer with no loyalty. It's all motivated by self-preservation, but in an Italy where pure corruption has replaced political motivation, not getting killed equals becoming one of them, if only a little. The dialog gets that why me/poor you Italian thing perfect and it's all very funny. Also: it is probably healthier to read books where the detectives drink too much espresso than the usual stuff I read, where they drink too much whiskey.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Interesting 1st Det Zen (Rome based Police officer) Italian based thriller, Zen is plucked from Desk job to lead hunt for Kidnapped tycoon.. start of a 11 book series featuring Zen. Some nice insight into Italian culture with some funny dialogue also. The plot & prose was OK and certainly held my interest, done enough to make me discover more of Mr Zen in rest of series..

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    This book was just not my cup of tea. I found the style overly descriptive and started skipping ahead only to find out that some character movement had been inserted into the description,which meant that I was now confused as where he was. I enjoyed the television program, but the books are not for me.

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