Now that he’s retired from the Maardam CID, Chief Inspector Van Veeteren (Münster’s Case, 2012, etc.) gets to try on an unwelcome new role: grieving father.
On his way home from an evening with his girlfriend, 16-year-old Wim Felders is killed by a hit-and-run driver. The police don’t suspect a thing, but someone else does, someone who saw the accident scene and is willing to blackmail the driver. The unidentified driver, who’s just taken up with Vera Miller, a married nurse from the New Rumsford Hospital, has different ideas and promptly murders the man who picks up the bundle of cash he’s just dropped off. This time the police are brought to attention by the identification of that second victim as Erich Van Veeteren, the beloved Chief Inspector’s ex-con, ex-addict son. Knowing nothing of the blackmail attempt, they grind through a series of interviews, beginning with Marlene Frey, Erich’s pregnant fiancee, without knowing what breakthrough they’re looking for or how to recognize it when they find it. Things are no better for the murderer, who receives a second blackmail note that reveals, to his consternation, that he’s killed the wrong man and that whoever has his number now plans to squeeze him much harder than before. Van Veeteren, who at first seems to have nothing to do but dispense sage observations—“A crime is born in the gap between the morality of society and that of the individual”—turns out to play a satisfyingly crucial role in breaking the case.
No frills, no subplots, no unnecessary moving parts: an autumnal procedural that illustrates what superior results you can get by stripping away the extras.