The Sergeant’s Cat and Other Stories

The first eight selections are detective stories, part of van de Wetering’s Amsterdam cop series featuring Detective Adjutant Grijpstra and Sergeant de Gier of the Amsterdam Municipal Police Homicide Department. Grijpstra is overweight, a cigar smoker; he moves slowly and patiently toward a solution. De Gier is extremely handsome, has a black belt in judo and a liking for colorful scarves, and becomes nauseous at the sight of a corpse. Grijpstra and de Gier are cynical detectives who trust in chance to guide their crime-solving.

The stories have been arranged according to a decreasing connection with contemporary reality. By the eighth story, “Letter Present,” the two detectives are only nominally present. The story is told from the point of view of the murderer, who confesses his crime in a letter to de Gier and Grijpstra. De Gier and Grijpstra serve as familiar objects in the world of a man haunted by his victims. Essentially, the detectives have become readers, like us.

The final six stories range widely in setting and subject. “A Tasty Tidbit” takes place in present-day Maine, where a Dutch journalist interviews a famous Dutch writer. The two countrymen go scuba diving, and the journalist catches a glimpse of a large great white shark. Later that day, the writer tells his guest how he and his wife once rid themselves of an unwelcome groupie by taking her scuba diving and then cutting her slightly when they got near the shark’s cave.

In “A Tale with an End,” a biochemist in the twenty-first century goes sailing and grounds accidentally on the shore of a penal colony. He is given a tour of the place by the chief, a cheerful host. The biochemist learns to his horror that drug addicts are lured to this island by an abundant supply of every addictive drug. When the addicts overdose, they are fed to nearby sharks.

“The New Disciple” is the last story in the collection. This parable takes place in Japan and tells how a master potter deals with terrorists who are trying to kill him and take his money.

In the course of reading these stories, the reader is exposed to Western justice, Adolf Hitler’s menace through the eyes of a dying young Jew, and Zen Buddhist philosophy, among other things. Through his stories, van de Wetering offers an entertaining and original, eccentrically cosmopolitan perspective on life.