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Two young men are found murdered; one in his boarding house, the other on the street. Both have been strangled and after some initial investigation, the police find out that they were close friends with two things in common - both are ex-drug users and both love music. The initial suspicion that the murders were drug-related is soon set aside, particularly when the manager of the boarding house is also murdered. There is no shortage of suspects, including the brother of one of the murdered young men, blamed by his mother for introducing his brother to drugs.
Inspector DeKok and his colleague, Inspector Vledder, are soon hot on the trail of the various suspects, only to find that all have alibis. Why were the two young men murdered? And what is the musical connection that appears at every stage of the investigation? Can DeKok and Vledder find the murderer before it is too late?
This is the second DeKok novel I have read. The author, A C Baantjer, was a homicide detective in the Netherlands for 25 years and has based many of his books on actual cases. This particular book is apparently based on a true case that happened in the early part of the twentieth century. I was actually quite surprised to read this, because the plots I've read so far by this author have not seemed all that believable. At the same time, there is a touch of earthiness in the way that the two detectives go about solving the case and this adds reality to the story.
There have been so many detectives in crime fiction that it is hard to find one that is original these days. DeKok (known as DeCock in Dutch!) is not really an exception. He is an older man who has years of wisdom behind him and as such knows how to solve a crime without rushing in headfirst. He is, however, a bit slow and pedantic and is a little bit set in his ways, although he does occasionally bend the rules. He reminds me a lot of George Simenon's Maigret. However, despite the lack of originality, I really like him as a character; much more, in fact, than I did in the last book I read from this series.
DeKok's sidekick, Vledder, is much younger and much more prone to jump in and make assumptions that are not necessarily true. Again, this is a common situation with pairs of detectives, and probably represents the change in police methods over the years. I personally liked the combination; I found the description of both characters very vivid and realistic.
At around 200 pages, this is not a long book, which I think is a good decision on the part of the author. The plot does not involve a huge amount of action; rather it is based on conversations with various suspects and witnesses, as well as DeKok's thought process and too much prose would have made it long-winded and frustrating. As such, it is just the right length and perfect for reading on the journey into work.
I remember being disappointed with the translation of the last DeKok book I read. I'm not sure if the translator of this book is different, but I did find it much less stilted. The only problem I had was becoming accustomed to the Dutch surnames - two of the suspects were called Waardenburg and Haarveld - and there was something about the double As that confused me!
The ending, I think, is rather far-fetched and I really cannot believe that the author hasn't used poetic licence to end what is supposed to be based on a true story. It does, however, fit in with the gentle, light-hearted humour with which the whole book is written (apart from the descriptions of the murder scenes of course!) and makes this an entertaining, if not outstanding, read.
On the whole, if you like crime fiction of the cosy, traditional type, you will probably enjoy this. It probably isn't hardcore enough for those who like lots of gore, but for a light read, you can't go far wrong. Recommended.
The book is available from play.com for £5.57. Published by Corvus Publishing Group, it has 222 pages. ISBN: 9780972577694
Inspector DeKok, the Dutch Maigret, is called in to investigate a triple murder in the Amsterdam Concert Gebouw and must call upon his extensive expertise to solve the case. Death, observes DeKok, is entitled to our respect. Especially when it manifests itself in a violent manner. The phenomenon of sudden death has long intrigued Inspector DeKok. From the moment he confronted his first corpse, at the beginning of a very long career, he knew it was never going to get any easier. For DeKok, death will always remain an enigma. Mustering his decorated experience and reverence for the dead once more, a triple murder in the Amsterdam Concert Gebouw has DeKok unveiling the truth behind two dead ex-junkies and their housekeeper. This is the second new release by Speck Press in the celebrated Baantjer series.