Sunday, August 28, 2011

DeKok and Murder on Blood Mountain: Review

In Inspector DeKok's line of work, death is routine. After all, he works in the homicide section of the police department. But encountering resurrected dead men certainly is not. At the request of the Belgium police, Inspectors DeKok and Vledder discreetly attend the funeral of a murder victim. The body was fished out of Antwerp's Scheldt River, but has been brought back to Amsterdam to be laid to rest in Sorrow Field Cemetery. During the service DeKok looks around at the mourners and finds himself looking at a man long dead. Whispers of the gray sleuth's sanity are uttered and even Vledder insists he must be mistaken, but DeKok is certain of a darker, more sinister activity at play than just the ridiculous notion of ghosts. More bodies are discovered; apparently they too were poisoned and dumped into the river. DeKok must venture from his beloved city and travel to Bloedberg ("Blood Mountain"), a notorious neighborhood in Antwerp. It seems a certain Heaven's Gate Temple and the Holy Pact for the Dying hold the answers to both the living dead and the dead and buried.

DeKok has been compared to Maigret and I must say that I see the similarities. Vledder is often exasperated with him and is hard put to understand some of DeKok's deductions. Just as those around Maigret sometimes cannot understand how he operates. But I find myself liking Dekok much better. He explains more...and more quickly than Maigret does (at least in The Yellow Dog). Baantjer's prose is marvelous in translation. The descriptions of both people and places are vivid and very apt. I was quickly drawn into the story and swept along right to the end. I was completely enthralled, right up to the denouement and I loved the classic wrap-up scene at the end. I can well understand why Baantjer is the most widely read author in the Netherlands. Four stars out of five.

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