Back to Bologna

Thursday, 11 November 2010

After the cloak and dagger intrigue of Medusa, Back to Bologna almost rates as comic relief, but that's not to suggest there aren't serious matters at stake. 

Recovering from surgery for a condition that may or may not actually exist, and faced with the breakdown of his relationship with Lucca-based girlfriend, Gemma Santini, Zen is only too happy to escape to monitor the investigation the murder of millionaire entrepreneur Lorenzo Curti, found shot and impaled on a Parmesan cheese knife.  

Apart from being the much-hated owner of Bologna's football club, Curti is involved with a dairy conglomerate suspected of tax evasion, so his death was always likely to interest the authorities. 

The plot thickens when world-famous semiotics professor Edgardo Ugo is shot with the same gun, almost as soon as he has finished humiliating Lo Chef Che Canta e Incanta Romano Rinaldi, a singing celebrity television chef. 

In the background the world’s worst private detective, Tony Speranza, is keeping an eye on high-flying socialite and soccer fan Vincenzo Amadori, since his parents are worried about his after-hours activities and Amadori's semiotics student flatmate, Rodolfo, is involved with an illegal immigrant who claims to be Princess Flavia of Ruritainia. 

The pretensions and conceits pile upon each other like the layers of a lasagne... 

The sticking point comes when Professor Ego suggests, in one of his multitudinous articles, that Lo Chef can't actually cook. Them's fighting words, and rather than embarking on legal action, Rinaldi agrees to an on-camera cook-off to demonstrate that he does, in fact, know his way around a kitchen.

Which, of course, he doesn't.

To add to the farce, Gemma finds herself in Bologna because her son has something important to tell her, and, predictably manages to get tickets to watch the cook-off. A series of coincidences results in Zen’s arrest when Ugo is found shot in the wake of his hilariously disastrous triumph.

As events unfold, Dibdin takes advantage of opportunities to indulge in satirical assessments of his characters' various character flaws, his description of Professor Ugo's various writing stations providing a particular highlight. There's even a passage where the Professor claims to have written a mystery in which a certain Inspector Nez actually solves nothing...

Of course, in the end, everything works out, and if it's not quite the way you'd have expected, things appear to have wrapped themselves up very nicely, though you'd expect the eventual murder suspect's actual mileage might vary.

© Ian Hughes 2012