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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Blond Baboon by Janwillem Van de Wetering (1978)

This week the Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass travels through Belgium and the Netherlands. Kerrie at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise, has the train running smoothly with interesting books and authors at every stop. The journey has moved from England through Portugal / Spain to France and now the Low Countries. Not finding any books set in the Netherlands or written by Dutch authors in my past 11 years of reading I looked for a Dutch book for the EuroPass meme. I chose a book by Janwillem Van de Wetering written a generation ago.


45. – 605.) The Blond Baboon by Janwillem Van de Wetering (1978) – On a dark and stormy night Sergeant de Gier and Adjuant Grijpstra of the Amsterdam police are called out to investigate the death of Elaine Carnet. (I have long wanted to use “a dark and stormy night” to start a review.) She has died as a result of a fall down the steps of her house into the garden. Was it accidental or was she pushed? There is a gruesome look of triumph in her face.

De Gier and Grijpstra investigate but I found it interesting how the Commissaris and detective Cardozo are given important roles in the investigation.

Elaine is the successful majority owner of a business selling furniture. She shares a building with her lovely daughter, Gabrielle. Her long time minority partner, Bergen, appears unsettled. Franseco Pulliani, the son of her major supplier, is in Amsterdam visiting the firm. Elaine’s former lover and employee, Vluet, known as the “blond baboon” has remained in contact with her. (I wonder in the politically correct atmosphere of today if the title would be used. Were it to refer to a woman I doubt a publisher would allow the title.)

Do any of them appear to have a financial motive for killing Elaine? What are the personal connections?

Elaine has been an unhappy woman for some time spending her days in idle pursuits and her nights drinking.

The Baboon is an interesting character. A clever skilled salesman he turned down the opportunity to run the business with Elaine. Instead, he chose to live a less rewarding financial life in which he restores boats, rents out apartments and lives simply.

The investigation proceeds logically, even methodically. People are interviewed, evidence assessed and leads pursued. There are no startling twists. The pace is steady. There is but one body. It lacks the dramatic scenes of current crime fiction.

What is striking is that all of the police get along reasonably well and they are constantly thinking. Many modern detectives find their way to solutions by poking around and blundering about the story.

It is a nice solid book. I expect I will read more of Van de Wetering. As common with the mysteries of a generation ago it is 168 pages in length. (Aug. 13/11)


  1. Bill - I'm glad you enjoyed this one enough to be interested in more of Van de Wetering's work. You make two really interesting points here. One is the length of the book. You're quite right that, with some exceptions, modern crime fiction can get awfully long. Sometimes length is necessary to tell a story well but often, it's not. That's an interesting phenomenon...

    The other point you make that I found interesting is about the pace of this book. I hadn't thought deeply about this, but you could well be right that a lot of modern crime fiction has drama and faster-paced plot twists, whereas earlier crime fiction had less of that. That may depend on the sub-genre, but it's such an interesting thought...

  2. Margot: Thanks for a very thoughtful comment.

    I doubt books will become shorter. We seem to equate quality with a lengthy story.

    I can almost see you thinking about an essay on the pacing of crime fiction.

  3. Sounds a good one Bill. I read and enjoyed his DEATH OF A HAWKER a couple of years back. Thanks for participating this week.

  4. Great series, Bill. I knew someone would wri about these books. De Wetering is the first Dutch writer I think of when people talk about Amsterdam in fiction. I've read many of the early titles, but not this one. Is Zen Buddhism still a part of De Gier's life in this one? That to me was the most fascinating part of the series. He is one of the earliest fictional policemen with a strong sense of compassion and he makes a stark contrast to some of the more brutal cops in crime novels of the early 70s when these books first appeared.

  5. Kerrie: Thank you for the comment and link to your review.

  6. John: Thanks for the comment. I did not see anything in the book about Zen Buddhism. With regard to their action not a suspect was beaten up to help solve the crime.