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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Maigret and DeKok

As a teenager in Switzerland, I discovered George Simenon's Maigret series. These police procedurals took place in Paris and featured the unflappable and compassionate Inspector (later Superintendent) Maigret, who had this wonderful relationship with his wife, enjoyed the requisite alcoholic moments in French bars and cafes, yet through his intimate knowledge of the community always solved the crime, no matter how bizarre. I read every Maigret I could find.

Several weeks ago, I stumbled on a reference to A.C. Baantjer, whose Inspector DeKok novels are wildly popular in the Netherlands. Most have been translated into English, but have gone out of print. I hopped on to Amazon and bought a couple for ridiculously low prices, e.g.,$1.50 and lower, read them, and have become an enthusiast. DeKok reminds me of Maigret. He tolerates, but understand the needs of his superiors, prefers the old methods, knows the community, patiently explains things to Vledder, his assistance, and intrepidly collects data until he has the solution. Like Maigret, he has his little peculiarities: a winning smile, felt hat, is always whistling Christmas carols off-key, and interminable patience.

In DeKok and the Dead Harlequin he is presented with a most peculiar situation: a note is delivered to him by an accountant, Pierre Brassel, who insist on meeting with him at exactly 8:00 a.m. on the following morning to discuss a murder he intends to commit. While at DeKok's office Brassel mentions that a man has been murdered at a nearby hotel. Sure enough, it is soon established that Jan Brets, a well-known burglar, had his head bashed in with a hockey stick while Brassel was talking with the inspector. DeKok is soon faced with a myriad of interlocking pieces to a puzzle that at first appears my be the perfect crime.

If you are looking for lots of guns and violence, these are not for you, but if you enjoy well-crafted police procedurals with human characters, they are perfect. Check your library or Alibris.com or Amazon.com
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