Though less flatly didactic than The Kleber Flight (1981), Koning's new politics/suspense novel again features the...

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DE WITT'S WAR

Though less flatly didactic than The Kleber Flight (1981), Koning's new politics/suspense novel again features the radicalization of an unengaged fellow: this time the man driven to lonely activism is Jerome De Witt, the 40-ish, wife-deserted mayor of the small town of Amsteldyk in Nazi-occupied Holland circa 1941. A series of brutal killings has occurred--all involving rich higher-ups in the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, two of whom lived in Amsteldyk. The general consensus is that the murders are political attacks on prominent collaborators with the Germans. Thus, De Witt is soon scrambling to solve the crimes before the German SD--whose terror he understands for the first time--starts turning Amsteldyk into another Lidice. (A dozen ""Marxist and Jewish elements in the community"" are indeed shot.) He contacts the socialist/anarchist underground but is quickly convinced that they were not responsible. He starts uncovering evidence of some sort of financial fraud, is then in danger, goes into hiding and incognito (with help from new prostitute/lover Geertje). He uncovers the secret behind the killings--a German scheme to shiftily take economic control of the Dutch East Indies--but can't get anyone (including the US Embassy) to listen to him. So finally, fed up with all governments, De Witt puts aside his doubts (""This middle-aged, skinny, tired person. Is he going to make a dent, influence a whole big war?"")--and sneaks his way to Switzerland, where he must decide whether his idealistic mission is important enough for him to commit murder himself. Too meandering for steady suspense, too fanciful for compelling moral drama--but, though De Witt never becomes an engaging character-in-transformation, Koning's mixture of thriller-plot with historical detail (Dutch finances, nuances of Nazi occupation) makes for a mostly intriguing package.

Pub Date: April 1, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1983