Monday, 17 January 2011

Zen: Cabal and Ratkiing: review


Zen is the latest BBC cop series, starring Rufus Sewell as Michael Dibdin's Italian detective, Aurelio Zen. I've seen the second and third episodes, Cabal and Ratking. Glamour and quirkiness are the most striking features of these two shows. I read some of the Zen books years ago, and really liked them. The TV version seems rather different, but it does have a genuine appeal.

Sewell is a handsome actor and everyone in the cast seemed to be rather good-looking, not least Zen's dear old Mum. Women are very much attracted to Zen, including his lovely but troubled girlfriend, a tough female prosecutor and a suspect in Ratking. He also has two slightly cartoonish superiors in successive episodes, plus a crafty political master.

Italy is one of my favourite countries, and it provides a stunning backdrop. The plots are secondary, but Ratking was especially neatly structured. I still prefer the books, but I'd be glad to watch Zen again.

Finally, it strikes me as really poignant that Mike Dibdin didn't live to see Zen on the screen. It's rather like the late Alan Hunter, who never saw Inspector George Gently.

10 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for this review. I'm glad to hear the show is well-done, even if it is different to the novels. And of course, Italy's a very appealing backdrop, isn't it...?

seana said...

I haven't read the Aurelio Zen books, though I've long felt remiss for not doing so.

Yes, Rufus Sewell would definitely be a draw...

Sarah Hilary said...

I enjoyed the series, but was disappointed by how much they diluted Ratking's twisted plot, to make way for ther requisite steamy scenes between Zen and Tania. I got tired of the fact that EVERY woman was beautiful, virtually every one was young, and most of them spent a lot of time in their underwear. I don't think even James Bond had quite this high ratio of "glamour" (to be polite about it) to plot. That said, our hero was watchable, with the right sense of dignity/humour. I very much liked Ben Miles as Amadeo.

Janet o'Kane said...

I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one, Martin. I watched the first 'Zen' and found it so tedious (despite being a fan of the books) that I couldn't be bothered to get to the end. From a female perspective, yes Sewell is handsome, but he's got what's been termed 'pointless good looks', i.e. they don't make him interesting to watch. The scenery was eye-catching, though.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Sounds like a gorgeous setting for the show. If it makes its way to the States, I'll give it a go. :)

Dorte H said...

Off topic, but do you remember we talked about the contract between the writer and the reader some time ago? You see, my daughter is writing a short paper about crime novels. Could I possible persuade you to write a post about these unwritten rules? Her main topic is cosy crime (how can a crime be cosy?), and she would love a post about these things writers *don´t* write - because they know their readers want entertainment, not shock or traumas.

Martin Edwards said...

Sarah, yes, the glamour quotient was amazingly high. Too high, I agree. And you're right about the plot.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Janet, I didn't see the first one. I like the phrase 'pointless good looks'!!

Martin Edwards said...

Dorte, certainly will do. Can you give any more clues about what sort of thing she is after?

Dorte H said...

Now we have had time to talk about it, and it wasn´t anything specific, she just wanted something more ´quoteable´ than her mother saying that an author had said...

So ´just´ a blog post about these expectations readers have to your genre, e.g. that you can´t let the murderer get away with it, you can´t very well kill off Daniel or Hannah (you daren´t, you know!), and as your books are not hard-boiled, your readers won´t appreciate detailed descriptions of violence.

Well, those are my ideas - what we want, of course, is YOUR ideas about your ´contract with your readers´ :D