And Then You Die

Thursday, 11 November 2010

On the surface you’d expect that Zen would be safe. After several months in hospital recovering from a collapsed lung, broken ribs and various minor side effects of the explosion at the end of Blood Rain, and another three months lying low in a Tuscan seaside resort, while he waits to testify in a high profile Mafia trial in the USA, it seems the only issue that’s likely to concern him is the possibility romance with the alluring occupant of a nearby deck chair.

Then, without warning, people who happen to be where Zen is supposed to be start dying under mysterious circumstances. It seems reasonably safe to assume that the aim of the killings is to take out the key witness in the Mafia trial, and under those circumstances it seems advisable to transfer Zen to an American jurisdiction where one would assume he’d be safe.

The transfer to the States strikes a hitch and Zen finds himself in Iceland fighting off the depredations of huldufolk, gnome-like creatures living in rocks and crevasses, who can only be seen by certain people (which explains why they don’t show up on security camera footage). 

While he’s sidetracked in Iceland, a change of mind renders the evidence he’s due to deliver surplus to requirements, so Zen returns home to a pay raise and an assignment to a special unit with total autonomy and no requirement to report for duty, more or less the sinecure he seems to have been seeking through his career.

The scene where Zen learns of his good fortune is a wonderful demolition job on the innovative, management-speak-cliche operator who seems to emerge towards the top of most sectors of the public service and associated agencies. At least Aurelio is cynical enough to point out to those around him that ambitious people intent on rolling out a new ethos, having cut the deadwood, inevitably move on, giving the old faces a chance to emerge from the woodwork again when the coast is reasonably clear.

At the same time, Zen realizes his good fortune is the result of forces higher in the bureaucracy who, for some reason, want to keep him in the loop but away from the action, which is fine with him since it allows him to pursue Gemma, the attractive woman he met on the beach in Versilia.

That takes him to the walled town of Lucca, where matters resolve themselves with remarkable rapidity, leaving Zen looking at a long-term arrangement with a woman of independent means and an independent mind while he pursues whatever investigations happen to take his interest.

© Ian Hughes 2012