Not only its citizens, but Bruges itself is under attack in this second case for Assistant Commissioner Pieter Van In to reach American shores.
One moment, Adriaan Frenkel, a visitor from Holland, has no thoughts but whether he’ll ever get a proper drink at the Villa Italiana; the next, he’s listening avidly to an unexpectedly revealing conversation between two drinkers at the next table, local industrialist Georges Vandekerckhove and his German companion Dietrich Fiedle. “The son of that bastard!” Frenkel reflects about Fiedle. From that point on, things move swiftly. The next morning, Fiedle is found dying in Blinde Ezel Street, apparently the victim of an accidental hematoma. There’d be no case for Van In and his sometime lover, Assistant District Attorney Hannelore Maartens, if a photograph Fiedle was carrying of Michelangelo’s Madonna didn’t seem to suggest a link to an attack on a statue of Belgium’s greatest poet, Guido Gezelle. Mayor Pierre Moens and Chief Commissioner Carton, ever alert to terrorists but always looking under the wrong rocks for them, are no help at all. So Van In and Hannelore mount their own one-cylinder investigation. The first result, predictably, is an official reprimand. As the police focus on the links to the Mouvement Wallon Révolutionnaire, however, Van In, a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, hard-wenching cop whose couplings with the whore Véronique are so inveterate that he doesn’t even think he’s cheating on his prosecutor, closes in on a plot that links the Nazi hoarding of Old Masters half a century ago to a fiendishly modern scheme to manipulate the real estate market in historic Bruges.
Only Van In’s intuition and his knack for noticing important details can explain how this raffish cop could possibly keep his job in this jokey, down-and-dirty tour of a town that can’t make up its mind whether it’s a museum for tourists or a haven for crooks.