cover image Murder in Amsterdam

Murder in Amsterdam

Albert Cornelis Baantjer. Intercontinental Publishing, $9.95 (215pp) ISBN 978-1-881164-00-5

This first translation of Baantjer's work into English supports the mystery writer's reputation in his native Holland as a Dutch Conan Doyle. Baantjer's Inspector DeKok is a curmudgeon tempered by years on the Amsterdam police force into sometimes accepting the closest available proxy for justice. The first of these two novellas featuring DeKok opens with the strangling death of Fat Sonja, an Amsterdam prostitute of whom DeKok was fond. Soon a second prostitute, Pale Goldie, is killed. Baantjer successfully uses the moral ambiguity of prostitution in Amsterdam--which is legal but viewed as a threat to society--to avoid easy cliches and to make DeKok, his assistant, Vledder, the victims and the denizens of Amsterdam's red-light district into three-dimensional individuals. The second whodunit proves that DeKok isn't above breaking the law to serve the interests of justice, as he engages a burglar to commit a break-in and then tampers with evidence to entrap the murderer of a young woman. His knowledge of esoterica rivals that of Holmes, but Baantjer wisely uses such trivia infrequently, his main interests clearly being detective work, characterization and moral complexity. (Jan.)