Ratking by Michael Dibdin

Book lovers often roll their eyes when they hear a favorite title is soon to be transferred to the screen, whether big (movie) or small (television), and I admit to occasionally being such an eye-roller.  But the mysteries produced by the BBC and shown in the United States on PBS as part of Masterpiece Theatre have always been an exception for me.  Whether it’s Morse or Poirot, Miss Marple or Wallander, I have always been a sucker for these series.

So imagine my delight when I heard Alan Cumming announce a new production based on one of my all time favorite mystery series.  But I still recommend reading the books first and fortunately there’s time to do so before Rufus Sewell makes his debut as Zen this summer (starting this Sunday, July 17).

It’s best to read this series in order, and the first title is Ratking (winner of the 1988 Gold Dagger Award).  As the story opens, Commissario Aurelio Zen is surprised to find himself assigned to a kidnapping case in Perugia.  Zen has spent the last four years idling behind a desk in Rome, ever since he fell into disfavor with his superiors.  So why the sudden change of heart?  Could it be that a scapegoat is needed?

When the case unfortunately changes from one of kidnapping to homicide, Zen knows it is going to take all his skills, both as a detective and as a politician, to solve it.  Tightly plotted, with a streak of cynicism and evocative atmosphere, Ratking is a great introduction to a great series.

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