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Aurelio Zen

In English with mostly English Actors
3 Episodes Set in and around Rome

The best-selling novels of Michael Dibdin come to life in these breathtaking new adaptations from PBS and the BBC. Aurelio Zen (Rufus Sewell) is a formidable detective, but he's always put honesty before advancement. The arrival of clever and ambitious Tania (Caterina Murino) to the team sees Zen's vigor reawakened. Driven by romance, re-energized and armed with a new confidence, Zen's investigations take him from crowded Rome to the spectacular Italian countryside, as he negotiates a complex string of murder cases, never afraid to question authority or use a few unorthodox methods to see justice done. Rufus Sewell brings passion, intrigue and humor to author Michael Dibdin's character in this series set against a visually rich backdrop of Rome at its most stunning.

Editorial Comment: At the end 2010, the BBC showed this three-episode mystery series based on Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen novels. PBS in the United States showed them in July/August, 2011. They were very good but it was a bit off-putting to see Italian characters played by British actors and speaking English. The episodes were based on the first three books but shown in the order of Vendetta, Cabal, and Ratking. In attempting to set the stage for an ongoing series, all were based in and around Rome and the screenplays added new characters which are required for a TV series. Because of this they lacked the Dibdin strength of setting each novel in a different Region of Italy. They were produced by Left Bank Pictures who also did the BBC Wallander series starring Kenneth Branagh.

Many Dibdin fans were disappointed in the Zen TV series. This was understandable and I agree with all of their points. There is always a problem when the BBC takes on shows set in non-English speaking countries with British actors. In the Zens, they chose two actresses whose native tongue is not English (Tania and Zens mother, which was poorly cast)... therefore the confusion of a variety of English accents. In spite of all of that, I still enjoyed the series -- the shows are different from the novels. Since Dibdin's novel were written in English, it's unlikely that the Italians would have produced the series in Italian. The BBC has opted out of the next 3 episodes, planned by Left Bank Pictures, which may mean that they will not be filmed as scheduled for release in 2012.

Commercial Availabilty of DVDs
for the Home Video Market

Episodes 1-3
Region 1, NTSC
Buy from Amazon.com

 Episodes 1-3
Region 2, PAL
Buy from Amazon.co.uk

Episode Descriptions

The episode information below was obtained from Wikipedia.

Episode 1

Detective Zen is sent to a remote village to re-investigate a murder, which may spark a political scandal. Zen is under pressure from the politicians and the Chief of Police, but he would rather be spending time with Tania, the Chief's beautiful assistant. Meanwhile, a gangster is after Zen, seeking revenge. 

Episode 2

The death of a famous aristocrat, Umberto Ruspanti, leads Detective Zen into the shadowy world of the Cabal—an organisation more powerful and secret than the Mafia. The Ministry want a quick verdict of suicide, but Zen's not so sure. Meanwhile, things are looking up with Tania.


Detective Zen works against the clock to recover the kidnapped Ruggerio Miletti, a wealthy industrialist with political ties. The involvement of the manipulative family and a beautiful grieving widow complicate matters. Meanwhile Tania's husband does everything he can to get rid of Zen.

Read The First Three Aurelio Zen Novels
by Michael Dibdin
Ratking Vendetta Cabal