Like a novel, a good mystery short story demands well-rounded characters, suspense and a satisfying plot; this collection of 13 tales by the usually outstanding van de Wetering falls short on all three counts. Perhaps it's because the author, a former Zen Buddhist monk, compresses his stories into koan-like vignettes in which, for the most part, the police solve crimes through intuition rather than by analyzing clues. Written during the past 16 years, the stories feature the Amsterdam Murder Brigade's cynical, jowly Detective-Adjutant Henk Grijpstra and his handsome assistant Detective-Sergeant Rinus de Gier. In several stories--""Six This, Six That,"" ""There Goes Ravelaar,"" ""Heron Island,"" ""The Sergeant's Cat"" and ""Houseful of Mussels""--the police make arrests based on unexplained assumptions. Maybe satori, the sudden enlightenment of Zen philosophy, is at work, but the result will leave readers puzzled. In other cases--""The Deadly Egg,"" ""Letter Present,"" ""Hup Three"" and ""The Bongo Bungler""--the police don't have enough evidence to arrest the suspects, but the bad guys still get their comeuppance, either through accident or suicide. A sense of loss pervades some stories, like ""The Machine Gun and the Mannequin,"" while in others, only Grijpstra's and de Gier's silly banter relieves the banality of their work. Van de Wetering's novels (The Perfidious Parrot, etc.) are known for their witty plots and eccentric characters; his books on Zen are quirky and engaging. Unfortunately, not even one hand can clap for these disappointing tales. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/1999 Release date: 09/01/1999 Genre: Fiction
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