THE INSPECTOR by Jan de Hartog


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As one reassesses the overall contribution of Jan de Hartog, this latest novel somehow sums up the core of his thinking. He emerges not so much a writer of adventure, or of the sea, but a writer who puts a kind of idealism, a sacrificial motivation, behind the surface pattern of adventure. One feels it in The Little Ark, more strongly still in Spiral Road, most strongly of all in The Inspector. Even The Distant Shore fails in its second part where that compassion and dedication is lost. The Inspector of the title is Peter Jongman, middle aged, a Dutchman, who has never been particularly successful in his role as investigator, as husband, as father. At the start of the story, he is following a suspected case of White Slave trafficking. When, in London, he is faced with the cynicism and inflexibility of Scotland Yard, he takes things into his own hands, and while he finds he cannot shoot down the agent who is his quarry, he does take on the case of the girl, who had given all she could ostensibly to being shipped into Palestine. That she was earlier a victim of the medical experimentation of Auschwitz, living by sheer will power only to reach the promised land, emerges as the story progresses. Jongman finds himself impelled to see this through to the goal, though it means the end of his career, the ultimate judgment of his wife and daughter, the depletion of his slender means -- and long weeks of hardship, struggles against authority and heartbreak. It is an absorbing and at times an incredible tale, but Jongman's fanatical determination to see it through, the girl's strange spiritual strength, end the compassion aroused in successive hard- boiled operators gives it a strange kind of authenticity, as of a lesson learned with difficulty.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1960
Publisher: Atheneum