The fourth case of Bruges Commissioner Pieter Van In to reach these shores, originally published in Belgium in 1998, pins the raffish cop between a covey of Satanists and a very pregnant wife.
There’s no sign of violence on the body of Trui Andries when she’s found in a shallow ditch at the side of the out-of-the way neighborhood of the Singel. But there’s no sign of water in her lungs either. So she must have been poisoned, concludes amusingly arrogant crime-scene tech Raf Geens, who gleefully announces the agent: tetramethylammonium pyrosulphate. Trui’s much younger boyfriend, Jonathan Leman, scarcely has time to link her to both the Suffer Little Children orphanage and the local Church of Satan, from which he claims they both escaped, before he vanishes. Van In’s most promising lead, Satanist Jasper Simons, is even less helpful; carried off to the hospital, he refuses to talk, then takes a header out a sixth-floor window. But all this is only a warm-up for a spectacular machine-gun attack that claims the lives of eight victims outside St. Jacob’s Church. How are all these nefarious doings linked together, and what’s the motive behind them all? Van In, who’s not capable of razor-sharp focus at the best of times (From Bruges with Love, 2015, etc.), is sorely distracted by his wife, Hannalore Martens, who’s about to give birth any minute; by Saartje Maes, a pesky reporter who’s attached herself like a barnacle to the case; and by Hannelore’s not implausible suspicion that the reporter has her eye on her husband.
The Satanists remain unsatisfyingly shadowy to the bitter end, but Aspe provides both a wholly unexpected culprit and the perfect setup for the moment in which his police hero finally becomes a father.