Most helpful positive review
It�s about what you are not thinking
on August 13, 2000
Da Ponte wrote a libretto for the opera the composer called "The School For Lovers". Michael Dibdin titles each chapter with a title from the libretto in Italian, and in the contents gives the English approximation. An estimate, a guess, any thought that suggests ambiguity is appropriate for this Aurelio Zen mystery, for neither the reader nor those fictional characters of "Cosi Fan Tutti" really know what is happening either.
When the protagonist in the series is reduced to thinking, "Not only was the plot slipping from his grasp, even the names of the cast appeared unfamiliar" you either are holding a great tale, or the thoughts of a writer who is in over his head. In the hands of a lesser talent this would often suggest a book that has lost direction and has resorted to rhetorical thought, as some gimmick for obscuring what is at heart a story gone amiss. But this is Michael Dibdin, and control of plot is never an issue for him.
Like a great play or opera the story arrives at its denouement, and then seemingly every player is brought together and the true and final facades are taken away. But for the Author this is not enough, for in the previous book he plants in Aurelio's mind a doubt of the worst sort, which appears to be solved at the end. A Priest leans over Zen's stricken Mother, the Confession, and then the question as to whether the Mother would like the Right of Extreme Unction. The Mother of course responds with "is there more Brandy", the "Priest" is a mature changeling of sorts, and everything you thought you knew, is twisted. All your thoughts are held up to a mirror, and they are not backward gibberish, but Michael Dibdin true plot, having once again the final resounding laughs at the reader's expense, and delight.
Michael Dibdin has yet to repeat one of his sleights of thought he baffles his reader's with, and with only 1 installment left to read I doubt there will be repetition. His writing is wonderful, to use a climber's term he continually presents false summits, the corner you turn is never the last until you are convinced it is not, and his mirrors reflect what he wants them to, not what light and nature intend.
My enthusiasm for this man's work continues unabated, his work is simply excellent.