It's not that Baantjer's DeKok mysteries are forgotten. I just don't think they're well-known in the United States, although he's one of the most widely read authors in the Netherlands. I've enjoyed some terrific police procedurals in the last year, so the discovery of Baantjer's Dutch Homicide Inspector DeKok was a welcome addition to the collection. There are sixty novels in this series, so those of us who are just discovering him have a wealth of reading ahead of us. I'm glad I finally discovered them with DeKok and the Dead Harlequin.
Inspector DeKok works out of the police station at the edge of Amsterdam's Red Light District, in the busiest police station in Western Europe. His career has lasted over twenty years, so he's not easily surprised. But, when he receives a letter announcing the attention to murder someone, and the letter writer asks for an appointment to meet with DeKok, he's intrigued. When Pierre Brassel shows up, on time, and meets with DeKok and his partner, Vledder, he has an alibi when a man is murdered exactly when and where Brassel predicts.
From the moment he receives the letter, DeKok knows this is an unusual case. Although the "dead harlequin" of the title refers to the position the body was found in, I kept returning to the thought that a puppeteer, Brassel, was manipulating DeKok and the police throughout the entire investigation. And, this is an absorbing, interesting investigation that leads DeKok from the police station to a hotel, to thieves and watchmen and accountants, but, always, back to the harlequin.
It was a pleasure to meet Inspector DeKok, an intelligent man with unusual ways of investigating, methods not always approved by his supervisors. He is over 200 pounds, but can move lightly when necessary. He is well-respected, even on the streets of Amsterdam. He's a fatherly figure, who doesn't like strong language. He's a friendly man, who resembles his boxer. He can read people, and, it is people that are important to DeKok, not rules and regulations. This is certainly obvious in the turn taken in the course of DeKok and the Dead Harlequin.
Baantjer was a police inspector of the Amsterdam police. This beloved Dutch author uses his expertise and skill to bring his Inspector DeKok to life. DeKok and the Dead Harlequin might serve to bring a "forgotten" author to American audiences.
DeKok and the Dead Harlequin by Baantjer. Speck Press, 2009. ISBN 9781933108278 (paperback), 208p.
And, for other Friday "Forgotten" Books, check out Patti Abbott's website at www.pattinase.blogspot.com, where she summarizes all the suggestions for Friday.