THE SERGEANT'S CAT by Janwillem van de Wetering


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Eight of these 14 stories feature the Amsterdam cops--50-ish Grijpstra (dour, unhappily married) and 40-ish de Gier (a flute-playing, Zen-ish Romeo)--from van de We Wetering's offbeat, popular series (The Streetbird, etc.). ""The Deadly Egg"" is fairly straightforward: on Easter day the cops investigate a suicide and a chocolate-bunny poisoning--two events that turn out to be curiously linked. Elsewhere, however, there's less mystery and detection than psychological warfare: through various means, Grijpstra and de Gier drive murderers (a vice-king a mussel, obsessed woman professor, a cool wife-killer) to confess or self-destruct. And in two pieces the policeman appear only incidentally: ""Letter Present,"" the guilt-ridden monologue of a timid multiple-killer who uses his victims' own weaknesses (lust, gluttony) as an oblique murder-weapon; and the case of a mentally ill, perhaps-harmless man--incarcerated, to de Gier's eventual dismay. The standout among the non-Amsterdam tales is the Poe-ish ""A Tasty Tidbit,"" in which a Dutch-bom, Maine-dwelling thriller-writer (not unlike van de W. himself) cheerfully relates how he and his wife disposed of the writer's no-longer-wanted mistress. Other stories reflect the author's interest in Zen and ecology: a Moose Bay polluter gets his just desserts; a seeker, disappointed in an Indian ashram, finds enlightenment from a Buddhist gum and serenity in the spin of his yo-yo; Master Tofu, a Japanese potter, dispenses wisdom--and elegant, harsh justice--to a series of thieves. And ""Jacob Sanders' Final Solution"" is the diary of a Dutch-Jewish boy during WW II: an iffy but provocative blending of vampire motifs with Holocaust themes. Psychology, black-comedy, whimsical sleuthing, and slivers of philosophy and sociology: tasty tidbits indeed for van de Wetering fans.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Pantheon