When Freeling killed off his series hero Inspector Piet Van der Valk (Auprâ‰¤s de ma Blonde, 1972), the death was unequivocal, leaving no room for a Holmesian reappearance. Now, unapologetically, he's back: not in one of those just-surfaced ""memoirs"" but once again with peckish wife Arlette (The Widow, 1979) in tow, as they undertake a week's holiday on the Dutch coast. In well-remembered, niggling, reflective, Maigret-like fashion, Van der Valk uproots a child porno ring--a case that begins with his ruminating on what could possibly be in the packet he watched two men exchange in a pub. Then resuming their travels, the Van der Valks meet up with rich, right-winger Jan Reich (nâ€š Rijk) on the ferry to Norderney, and this casual encounter leads to a murder that really isn't; the death of an undercover agent; rantings from a rabid American preacher; and a narrow escape for Van der Valk and Arlette. The minimalist plot is compensated for by the newsy digressions: Simenon's birthing Maigret in the harbor town of Delfzijl; John Buchan's appalling racism; the parallels between the travels of the Van der Valks and the situations in The Riddle of the Sands (often credited with being the first spy novel). As a portrait of a marriage and low. country attitudes, this is first-rate stuff; as a mystery, it barely passes.