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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


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Baantjer, A.C.: DeKok and the Dead Harlequin

  Amazon  

4 stars

A.C. Baantjer has written some sixty novels featuring Amsterdam's Inspector DeKok. DeKok and the Dead Harlequin, my first foray into the series, was originally published in Dutch in 1967. The English edition was released by Speck Press earlier this  year. The book starts with a most intriguing puzzle. DeKok receives a note from a man who asks for an appointment, saying that he has determined to commit a murder. The murder indeed takes place, but while the visitor is in DeKok's office, so it's solution is not as obvious as one would at first suspect. The crime remains a puzzlement to the end, when DeKok reveals all to his wife and his perplexed colleague Vledder. It's the sort of crime novel in which the reader is not given all the information that DeKok has at his disposal, so that while we may have ideas about who did it, we cannot solve the crime ourselves.

The elaborate precautions taken by DeKok's note writer are what makes the story immediately interesting, yet in the end--though I don't want to give anything away--I'm not convinced that that aspect of the story quite makes sense, as if it were introduced because it was sensational rather than necessary to the plot. But I quite enjoyed my introduction to the series nonetheless. DeKok is a wonderful character--shambling and humane and imperfect and quite realistic. I imagine this won't be my last dip into the world of Amsterdam's criminal element.

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