Inspector Van Veeteren probes a religious camp after a series of anonymous calls reports a missing girl.
At the Pure Life Camp in the wilderness at Waldingham, a camper sneaks out of her cabin in the middle of the night, then realizes she's being followed. A short time later, laid-back local police chief Kluuge receives a series of whispered calls about a girl missing from the camp. Meanwhile, in the city of Maardam, a sweltering summer is, depending on whom you ask, either raising or lowering the crime rate. Veteran Inspector Van Veeteren, who's closing in on 60, is again contemplating retirement and a less stressful life. So getting sent to Pure Life seems like an ironic bit of karma. He finds Kluuge an amiable shirker, and the neighbors of the camp hard to communicate with. Van Veeteren checks in regularly with the squad room guys, who have everything under control in other cases. But the creepy leader of the camp proves to be a challenge. Slick, smug and shrewd, Oscar Yellinek parries all of Ven Veeteren's probing questions about the camp, which caters exclusively to teenage girls. Employees and campers alike deny that a girl is missing, but Van Veeteren smells a lie and a cult when Yellinek is evasive regarding sexual activity at the camp. The discovery of a dead girl changes everything.
Van Veeteren's fifth case to be translated into English (Woman with Birthmark, 2009, etc.) builds slowly, the grim haunting plot perfectly suited to the methodical, stoic hero.