Wednesday, December 08, 2010

67. The Corpse on the Dike by Janwillem van de Wetering

A good friend of mine gave me this book along with three other van de Wetering mysteries. It was appreciated because I've been curious about this other and went to Amsterdam for the first time earlier this year (where these stories take place). However, he didn't realize the burden he was placing on me by adding 4 new books by the same author onto my on-deck shelf that I have been very aggressive about whittling down this year. I figured out their chronological order (of which the Corpse on the Dike was the earliest) and hoped either they would be super awesome or totally mediocre. In the former case, I would have three more books of this super awesome series waiting for me. In the latter case, I could just give the other three away.

Unfortunately, it was only pretty good. The main characters, two undercover police detectives—Gripjstra the hulking family man and De Gier, the athletic and weirdly single guy—and their commisariss, a shrewd police veteran suffering from severe rheumatism in the legs are compelling and entertaining. They have that civilized, respectful and educated belief that society should try to be generally benevolent that separates Europe from North America, but it doesn't weaken their fundamental cop nature. It makes for a nice balance. They also have some pretty funny riffing off of each other. It's just an odd, effective crew working for the man and they seem to be aware of it.

The locations and the other characters are pretty cool as well. I really loved Amsterdam and I enjoyed seeing it from an insider's perspective (although I believe van de Wetering was writing these books from outside of Amsterdam and they are originally written in english, for whatever that information is worth). It was a bit more rundown when this book takes place in the mid-70s. Among the many neat locations, a high-class brothel in a mansion, run by an accommodating pimp was particularly vivid.

However, the mystery itself was not all that interesting. It was more of a straight police procedural that was wrapped up a bit too easily and perfunctorily, without any real twists or complications. I sort of appreciated it the straightforwardness of it, but it just didn't really excite me. I'm definitely into the main characters, so I'll definitely read the second and then decide on what to do with the next two.

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