INSPECTOR SAITO'S SMALL SATORI by Janwillem Van de Wetering


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Van de Wetering, the Dutch-born author of an Amsterdam police-procedural series with Zen touches (The Maine Massacre, The Blond Baboon, etc.), now follows his Eastern interest to Kyoto, Japan--for eleven short stories featuring 26-year-old Inspector Saito. Not unlike Robert Van Gulik's Judge Dee, Saito often solves his puzzles by remembering that 13th-century manual of jurisprudence and detection, Parallel Cases Under the Pear Tree. But he also occasionally hops on his motorcycle to go undercover with a bit of action, entrapment, or expos‚. There are a few fairly straightforward murder-mysteries: a rich young American woman found dead near the temple where she was studying meditation; a chicken-farmer killed in a village that's under the thumb of a rich landowner; arson-murder for the sake of a valuable stamp. Elsewhere, Saito publicizes the kinky doings at a monastery and visits his elderly uncle--who slyly presents the Inspector with a domestic puzzle (one that touchingly foreshadows the old man's death). And the final three stories detail a creepy crime-of-passion: first from the murderer's viewpoint (he's a Dutch philosophy professor), then focusing on Saito--his psycho-sleuthing, the grim results, the psychological after-effects. Here, and throughout, Van de Wetering occasionally drags in some unconvincing psychological jargon; some of the Zen-ing, too, seems a little forced. And none of these mini-puzzles has an especially taut or clever solution. But these are brief, intriguing tales for the most part, with extra appeal for those already attuned to Van de Wetering's Buddhist shadings.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 1985
Publisher: Putnam