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dekok and the romantic murder

2 january 2024

DeKok and the Romantic Murder is the third of A.C. Baantjer's prolific mystery series that I've picked up. The jury is still out on the overall quality of the series. It may just be uneven, or unevenly translated (though all three have been done by the same English-language translator, H.G. Smittenaar). I like the characters in Romantic Murder; the plot is extremely rickety and far-fetched, though.

In quick succession as the novel opens, a young thief is apprehended on the roof of an Amsterdam bank (having been unable to steal anything from its vault despite apparent inside help); and a woman is found dead in her Amsterdam home, bludgeoned: the scene – perhaps misleadingly, because nothing seems to be missing – set up to make it look like a home invasion gone wrong. DeKok soon learns that the crime scene is covered with the fingerprints of the young thief. But what connection could there be between an inoffensive catburglar and this gory, fruitless murder?

Baantjer proceeds to keep backtracking and adding in time-schemes and characters we didn't know about. The result is a murder decades in the making, with fraught love triangles, exchanged babies, and who knows what else behind the scenes. I like DeKok and his sidekick Vledder well enough to stick with them, but the story is hooey and seems to bear traces of being thrown together at speed and without care.

Of course effort is an illusion and has nothing to do with the finished work. Some books as casually plotted as DeKok and the Romantic Murder have taken decades of hard work. The product is what counts for the reader, and the product in this case is uneasy and only half successful.

Baantjer, A.C. DeKok and the Romantic Murder. [De Cock en de romance in moord, 1977.] Translated by H.G. Smittenaar. Fairfax Station, VA: InterContinental, 1994.