I chatted with British writer Michael Dibdin sometime in the last century as he was making a splash (or at least the kind of a splash successful crime story writers make). Especially as he had embarked on a series featuring an Italian police detective displaced from his home town of Venice to work in Rome. Add to his outsider status, his incorruptibility and integrity and the unusual moniker of Aurelio Zen and their was the promise of (some) engaging drama. Dibdin published 11 books in the Zen serials before he died in 2007.
Now come 3 BBC produced films based Dibdin’s first Zen’s stories Vendetta, Cabal and Rat King via PBS’s Masterpiece Theater. A number of qualities recommend these spaghetti thrillers— you will lay your eyes on the most beautiful woman on TV, in the person of Caterina Murino. Rufus Sewell is intriguing as the idiosyncratic Zen who is reminiscent of Eliot Gould’s Marlowe in the Long Good Bye —all mumbles, twitches and tics and misdirects. The employment of English actors and no attempt to affect Italian accents (except of course for the transcendent Senora Morino)is a charming touch. And there is, of course, the photogeneity(sic ) of Rome and it denizens and the charming attitudes exhibited by them regarding life love and death. There also are murders and betrayals and mayhem and most prominently, corruption
The third final episode (a term I use loosely) in the series air on July 31 and I for one hope the producers go back for more.