Rufus Sewell of Middlemarch fame stars as the fictional Italian detective Aurelio Zen in three new films for BBC One. The three-part saga will air from early January next year.

Italian actress Caterina Murino stars as Zen’s love interest Tania Moretti alongside an international cast including Ben Miles, Stanley Townsend, Catherine Spaak and Francesco Quinn.

Set in and around Rome, and based on the best-selling novels by the late Michael Dibdin, the series features many of the combined attractions of Italy and the Dibdin novels – thrilling investigations, fun, warmth and beautiful people.

Rufus Sewell says: “I’m thrilled to be a part of this project with the opportunity to play such an intriguing, complex and likeable character.” Adding “There’s nothing really like Zen. In fact, the closest thing to it hasn’t been made for a very, very long time. There’s a kind of bounce to it that reminds me of stuff from the sixties. It’s fun and I’m having more fun doing this than I’ve had doing anything for a very long time.”

The dramas see Zen investigating such cases as the murder of  Flamboyant millionaire and Government construction magnate, Oscar Faso and his guests who in the episode Vendetta are shot dead at his lavish villa. In Cabal when the body of Umberto Ruspanti, a member of one of Rome’s most prominent aristocratic families, is found underneath a bridge in the early hours of the morning Zen has to work out just how Umberto died while in Ratking its not murder on the adjenda but kidnapping when wealthy industrialist and political party funder, Ruggerio Miletti, is taken hostage. The Italian Ministry turn to their favourite detective, Aurelio Zen, to get Miletti back alive at any cost – financial or personal.

Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, adds: “Rufus Sewell brings passion and intrigue to BBC One as Italian detective Aurelio Zen. Set in contemporary Rome, and from the producers behind the BAFTA award-winning Wallander, I hope Michael Dibdin’s books will captivate audiences.”

Michael Dibdin lived in Italy for many years and had eleven Zen books published, which continue to entertain readers around the world. He died three years ago. His novels won many awards including the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger for Ratking.

“The [TV] stories are fantastic because they’re based on really great novels. I think, potentially, it should be like nothing people have seen before. The relief reading the books is that there’s a lot of humour and personally I’m trying to bring as much of that out as possible, for my own entertainment and hopefully for the entertainment of anyone watching!” Sewell says on the books.

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