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dekok and the begging death

9 may 2019

I'd reviewed one other crime novel by A.C. Baantjer here, a dozen years ago, and I was either being unusually testy or the book was unusually weak. I just started reading the B's in the mystery section of my public library, and they start with a whole shelf of Baantjer. I may have mellowed since 2007, or DeKok and the Begging Death may simply be a somewhat better novel.

DeKok, mercurial with his supervisors and gentle-mannered with everybody else, catches a case that involves the higher echelons of Amsterdam society, and the penchant of its business barons for expensive escorts. First the grandson of a leading banker is threatened, and then the banker himself is found killed, execution-style, in the flat of an expensive prostitute. Another similar murder follows – who's getting these magnates to show up like lambs and be slaughtered in their playpen?

DeKok's suspicions light on the DA-equivalent, Schaap ("sheep," speaking of lambs), another of the escort's clients and one who's been behaving oddly. But something rings false. Schaap seems more scared than guilty – could he be the next victim?

The ultimate solution to the mystery is a red herring out of left field, or whatever the Dutch would use in their corresponding metaphorical mix. But the fun of the book lies in DeKok's prickly personality, his relationship with his sidekick Vledder, his sparring with his supervisors. DeKok and the Begging Death delivers diversion, and sometimes that's what you want from a book.

Baantjer [sic]. DeKok and the Begging Death. [De Cock en de smekende dood, 1982.] Translated by H.G. Smittenaar. Fairfax Station, VA: InterContinental, 1999. PT 5881.12 .A2C622813