Reach Zen With This Whodunnit

This Is South Wales, 1 January 2011

You can almost imagine the cries of "Eureka" that sprang out round the production offices when another canon of detective novels was unearthed ready to be harvested of their best bits ready for the small screen.

After Dalziel and Pascoe, Rebus, Wexford and the like all became TV favourites, it was obvious that there was ratings in them thar library shelves and the hunt was on for more.

Of course, it is an obvious move. We all love a crime thriller and the soapy element of enjoying a degree of familiarity with the leading characters is always a help (Morse's love of real ale, Miss Marple and her knitting, Inspector Frost and his curry).

And it does help if everybody hasn't already read the stories so there won't be too much tutting at liberties taken with much-loved heroes.

I haven't read any of Michael Dibdin's 10 novels featuring Italian detective Aurelio Zen, but I'm pretty sure there will have been a few tweaks to make our latest crimefighter camera ready. But whatever they maybe, they have certainly been worthwhile.

The first of this new three-part series featuring Rufus Sewell in the title role is a treat in equal measure for all fans of crime stories, impossibly high cheek bones and slick European tailoring.

Right from the super cool theme music and the snazzy opening titles which fall away to reveal picturesque Umbrian scenery, you know you are in for a pleasurable ride.

Despite his impeccable dress sense and good looks Zen is not a success, separated from his wife he lives with his mother and has a reputation for being too honest to fit in among his more corrupt colleagues.

We know he's a good copper because we see him resolutely refusing to even accept a freebie espresso on his way to work.

The only ones with any faith in him appear to be his mum, his boss Moscati and the new department secretary Tania Moretti (who is played by Bond girl Caterina Murino, just to make it all look even more gorgeous).

But life is made more difficult when he is given a seemingly impossible case to crack on the orders of a sneaky government minister while all time oblivious to a crazed hitman hot on his perfectly polished heels.

It will come as no surprise to know that is a product of the same stable as the award-winning 'Wallander'. It shares the painstaking attention to detail which reminds you at all times that you are not watching a British copper in action, as well as some great scene-setting cinematography.

Like a light tiramisu compared to a another slice of stodgy Christmas pudding, it offers the perfect alternative to the seasonal glut of Agatha Christies.

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