Michael Dibdin wrote 11 Aurelio Zen mysteries before he died in 2007. His principal protagonist Aurelio Zen had been born in Venice. Dibdin placed Zen only once in
Venice in what I think is the best crime novel ever set in that city, Dead Lagoon (1994). The story has a melancholy Zen return to Venice in the dead of winter and the resulting novel is an exquisite but doubly melancholy one!
There is a cooking scene in Dead Lagoon that made me get up and buy the ingredients to prepare the simple dish described. It is a good recipe. Here it is as written by Michael Dibdin:
She smiled and turned away. There seemed to be something about her which did not quite fit the crisply professional clothes, some hint of intimacy, some chink in her armour.
‘I’m starving,’ she said. ‘I’ll put the pasta water on.’
Zen followed her out to the kitchen. On the table stood a stoppered litre bottle of red wine, a packet of spaghetti, a fat clove of purple-skinned garlic, a small jar of oil which was the opaque green of bottle glass abraded by the sea, a twist of paper containing three wrinkled chillis the colour of dried blood.
‘Aglio, olio e peperoncino,’ he said.
‘I told you it was nothing fancy.’
As she set the heavy pan on the stove and tossed a hail-flurry of coarse salt into the water, Zen suddenly understood the rogue element in her appearance. Her breasts moved waywardly inside the sheath of silk, belying the brisk message of her formal clothing with their seditious whisper.
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