Book review: DeKok and the Dead Harlequin by A.C. Baantjer

An agitated DeKok paced up and down the large detective room. His face gave away a stormy, foul mood. It was nine o'clock and there was no coffee. The culprit was the new, very young Detective Bonmeyer. According to the duty roster, the boy was supposed to have taken care of the coffee that morning. He was too inexperienced to know an early burglary and interrogation were not his first priorities. In DeKok's eyes, this was simply unpardonable. Nothing could be more important than the first coffee of the morning. (p152).

DeKok ( 'my name is DeKok, with, eh, a kay-oh-kay') is an endearing addition to the middle-aged-misanthropic-stubborn-policeman sub-genre of crime fiction. An Inspector with the Amsterdam Police, he is more likeable than Kurt Wallander (which is not hard), more cheerful than Martin Beck (not hard either) and more easygoing than Inspector Morse (remember him?). He is large, his feet hurt, he has recently given up smoking, he doesn't take orders well, he has a Boxer dog and a wife who makes the coffee. In my head, he has the voice of Bill Bailey pretending to be a Dutch stockbroker.

DeKok has a mystery to solve - a twist on the classic locked room crime, brought to his attention by the man who claims to be the murderer. It's a very satisfying mystery. It's not clear who did it, or why, there are many people who could have committed the crime, and DeKok is just as confused as the reader. Once DeKok has solved the puzzle, the reader must follow along until the truth is revealed.

I've haven't read any of Baantjer's books before, although DeKok and the Dead Harlequin is the sixth of seventy novels. If the other books in the series are like this, they will be a great treat, old-fashioned crime in the best sense. Not too gory, not too realistic ('crap' is about as severe as the swearing gets), with the solving of the puzzle the main aim of the story. And I do like the writing style, it's simple and understated, telling and hiding at the same time.

I wonder what other Dutch crime novels I've been missing?