THE BUTTERFLY HUNTER by Janwillem van de Wetering

THE BUTTERFLY HUNTER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Despite murmurings about Fate, Destiny, and the Absalom legend by mystically-minded van de Wetering (author of Zen-related books as well as a police-procedural series), these ugly episodes from the unlovely life of an amoral Dutchman named Eddy Sachs don't add up to much--even as Eddy moves, decade by decade, closer to the grisly fate he so obviously deserves. In 1933 teenager Eddy cleverly, indirectly kills his half-brother--the butterfly-hunter who outdid him (and abused his sister). During the war super-handsome Eddy flees Holland, works as a spy in Germany for the British, kills when he must. Afterwards, with the occupying forces, he unknowingly allows a Rembrandt to be stolen by a Dutch con-man and then befriends an ex-SS-man--before beginning a blah career as a minor movie actor (with a sometime sideline in East Berlin defections). And when movie work peters out, adventure-hungry Eddy becomes a tour-guide in Italy--where he just happens to become the lover of that Rembrandt-stealing con artist. (""In whatever happens around us definite connecting lines can be drawn."") So, teaming up with that old SS pal, Eddy now schemes to get hold of that Rembrandt again--especially since it may provide the clue to a fortune in buried Nazi gold loot: the trail leads to Latin America. But, after all the materialistic, scheming characters here receive visionary visits from ""the butterfly hunter"" (who intones pseudo-profundities), gold-seeking Eddy dies at last . . . with a Zen-like fadeout: ""I have no other choice, Eddy thought./If that were true there would be no other possibility, and you will not have chosen./Eddy saw the other possibility and smiled."" Too whimsical and pretentious to work as suspense, too slight and murky to deliver much of a thematic impact: a mostly unsuccessful attempt, in other words, at that very European hybrid--the metaphysical, fable-like thriller.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin