January 21st, 2014

Just a Corpse at Twilight

        Janwillem van de Wetering's Grijpstra & De Gier mystery novel, Just a Corpse at Twilight was the book I took to SHU-WPF Residency, where I got through exactly 52 pages in the six days I was on campus. Distantly do I remember when the residencies were a reading vacation for me.

        Ah, well.

        I've loved this quirky series of Amsterdam police procedurals since I first heard John Leonard praising them a couple of decades ago. Since I ran out of Raymond Chandler novels, I've been rationing these to myself, taking one to each residency, and now have only two novels and a story collection left unread. They're infused with Buddhism, amusingly philosophical dialog, and outsized characters. The case is always playing second fiddle to the situations, and the detectives worry about much more than just the process of detecting the guilty.

        Van de Wetering took an eight year break (1986-1994) between the previous volume and this one, and it shows. The characters don't feel entirely familiar, and neither does the basic atmosphere. Adding to this are the big changes, even though it's supposedly only a couple of years since the time of the previous story. The commissaris is retired, which isn't that big a surprise. That was overdue. But it seems that both Grijpstra and De Gier also retired, at about the same time. What!?!?!? Grijpstra is now a private detective, living with Nellie. De Gier is traveling the world, seeking shamans.

        Basically, that's too much. An Amsterdam cops series with only ex-cops. Harrumph.

        And De Gier is in trouble, and the fashion of that trouble doesn't fit my idea of his character, so I had trouble buying into the story, ever. De Gier has a lot of money, and how he got it turns out to be another problem for this reader. The solution to the problem is also not of the nature of the series. Indeed, our protagonists only partly act on their own behalf, which leads to a rather unsatisfying conclusion.

        So, while I enjoyed learning how Turtle is doing (his wise counsel is key), I pronounce this the least successful entry in the series, to this point.

CBsIP: Claims for Poetry, Donald Hall, ed.

Personal Memoirs of P. H. Sheridan, Vol. I, P. H. Sheridan

The Year's Best Science Fiction, Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection, Gardner Dozois, ed.

By Air Express to Venus, Roy Rockwood

Ways of Nature, John Burroughs