The Corpse on the Dike by Janwillem van de Wetering
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It took me 31 years to finish Janwillem van de Wetering's "The Corpse on the Dike". It was the first book that I started reading when I landed in the U.S. in 1982. I could not get past the first 20 pages at that time, and the book had to wait until now. Well, it could have waited longer - it is not that interesting.
A rich recluse is found shot on an Amsterdam dike. Adjutant-Detective Grijpstra, Sergeant de Grier, and their boss, the commissaris from the Amsterdam Municipal Police, are trying to find the killer. We meet colorful crowd of strange characters living on the dike. We also meet seamy characters: thieves, pimps, and stolen good dealers. The plot is quite complex and seems to constantly veer in different directions.
I began reading this book in 1982 because of Nicolas Freeling's Van der Valk novels whose plots were also located in Amsterdam. Mr. Freeling's books are masterpieces of detective fiction, full of literary sophistication and acute psychological and sociological observations. Alas, "The Corpse on the Dike" is just a run-of-the-mill crime story, with little depth and little redeeming literary value. Not even close to Freeling's class.
Yes, there are some good fragments in the novel. For example the bit about events following de Grier's interview of Ursula or the story of the Landsburger dike firefight are hilarious. But that's not enough to save the novel from mediocrity. I am unable to believe that de Grier, Grijpstra, and the commissaris are real people.
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