Are you starting to recover from Christmas yet? Or are you still knee-deep in wrapping paper with a bow stuck in your hair and the world's worst sugar crash from all those cookies? Either way, we're sure you have no need to improve your character. Just sit back in your recliner, watch the last days of 2012 float by and let a fictional character worry about New Year's resolutions.
Cop Aurelio (pronounced ow-raily-oh, not aw-reelly-oh) Zen spends a lot of time being homesick. His superiors in Rome transfer him to various Italian cities, ostensibly to fill a temporary need, but it seems more in the nature of a punishment. In Michael Dibdin's eleventh and final Aurelio Zen series book, End Games, Zen is in the southwestern region of Calabria, filling in for the Cosenza chief of police, who accidentally shot himself in the foot. An American lawyer who was born in Calabria and is doing location work in advance of a movie filming is killed, and Zen heads the investigation to track down his killer. It's painful to say arrivederci to Zen––the good-looking and kind-hearted, but world-weary policeman––and this entertaining series, which combines great characterization and settings, black humor, and commentary about contemporary society with an Italian police procedural.
And now, here are Zen's resolutions for 2013:
1. Try to cough up some ambition. If I don't climb the promotion ladder, I'll be at the mercy of my superiors forever.
|Just like the game of Chutes and Ladders|
2. I must learn to feel at home when I can't smell the sea.
3. Do a better job of fitting in. Here in Calabria, I look nude without facial hair.
4. Give up cigarettes. This will be very difficult. Defying the no-smoking rules in my office adds a particular piquancy to my smoking.
5. Get more sleep. I've been likened to John of Patmos. God forbid I look as if I'm seeing an apocalypse on the horizon.
6. Try to place less importance on meals. Learn to like that international icon of Italian cuisine, the tomato, although it is fit only for barbarians. A bad meal should not make me feel spiritually as well as physically nauseous.
7. Do my thoughts about spaghetti with clams––in terms describing women's sexual anatomy––mean I should resolve to see my wife, Gemma, more often? Do it.
8. Work on my professionalism. A murder should not be excused because I like the murderer, empathize with his or her motives, or see another good reason not to make an arrest.
9. Develop rapport with villainous suspects in a way that does not involve putting my cigarette out on their hands, grabbing their hair, or slapping them. This is beneath me. Rely more on underlings.
10. When an investigation is spinning out of my control, work on focus. Don't sit and stare at the wall. Find a beautiful spot outdoors to meditate and think. When things end badly, look on the bright side. I'm going home.
Best wishes for a prosperous 2013.