Freeling is at his best when his novels depend on the Dutch detective, Inspector Van der Valk. (His King of the Rainy Country was awarded an Edgar as the best mystery of 1966 by the Mystery Writers of America.) This time, however, the author covers a sermon with a thin coat of suspense. It's all about the historic consequences of greed. The main character is Louis Schweitzer, a fussily self-sufficient middle-aged man who has successfully escaped both involvement and commitment since being widowed by the Allied bombing of Dresden. On a day off from his Job as a translator at a permanent peace conference with overtones of the U.N., Louis walks into the center of a murder. Responding with the remembered reflexes of an old Resistance fighter, Louis leaves two men dead and pedals off with the object of it all, a fabulous diamond that was one of the lost treasures of Dresden. His unthought out plan to keep it from both the authorities and the international underworld leads him to throw himself on a fellow translator for help. She's dumpy refugee Pole who turns into a sort of lumpkin Earth Mother doling out affection and medicinal sex to the harassed Louis, who is pursued by a thoroughly unbelievable villain. Freeling starts the book with a foreword to his readers (seldom a good sign for entertaining fiction) and provides alternate end chapters--one happy, one sad--a dismal device that justifies a charge of author abdication. Although it aims to be more than mystery fiction, it isn't--especially in comparison to Freeling's own record in that form.