The Widow (1979) returns--Inspector van der Valk's widow, that is. And, as before, wise, tough Arlette is doing freelance ""counseling"" in Strasbourg, where she now lives with sociologist husband Arthur. So, also as before, readers who want a murder mystery--or any strong plot--will be disappointed in Arlette's small-scale, undramatic cases: a disillusioned cop consults her about his urge to quit; a man who has lost both job and wife seeks her pity; a wealthy family begs her to find their ne'er-do-well son in Argentina. (Arlette eventually goes--and winds up in prison. . .a timely but contrived jolt of action.) And two other episodes aren't even connected to Arlette's career: husband Arthur (mistaken for his ex-Nazi brother-in-law) is badgered by the press and a supposed illegitimate child; and Arlette is mistakenly fingered as a police informer. Lots of plot strands indeed (with a tad of Make Mine Mink farce-caper to boot), none of which generates much suspense. But readers attuned to Freeling's murmurous British/European manner will find humor and gentle payoffs galore--in the nonstop allusions (from Dickens to Castaneda to John Wayne), in the vignette characterizations, in the city milieu, and above all in the sharp-edged but increasingly tender Arlette/Arthur marriage. Except for that crude Argentina subplot, then: a tart/sweet Continental delicacy for connoisseurs.