Just a Corpse at Twilight

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

JUST A CORPSE AT TWILIGHT is van de Wetering’s first Amsterdam Cops novel in eight years and the twelfth in a series that stretches over twenty years. In this novel, all three of the Dutch policemen have retired. Sergeant Rinus de Gier is now living on a rented island on the deserted coast of Maine; Adjutant Henk Grijpstra is now divorced and a private detective; and the former Commissaris (Chief of Detectives) lives in retirement with his wife.

De Gier phones Grijpstra and asks him to come to Maine; de Gier is afraid that he has killed a woman while he was drunk and stoned. Grijpstra leaves at once, regarding de Gier’s request as a sort of moral commitment. When de Gier and Grijpstra finally meet, they find themselves in the midst of a gallery of eccentric characters, including less-than-honest law enforcement people, a philosophical small-plane pilot, a Hawaiian waitress in a local diner, two boatmen who are not above some small illegalities (such as hiding a body), and the local power broker who has his fingers into all sorts of wheeling and dealing.

The Commissaris keeps in touch with affairs by tape recordings; eventually he travels to Maine for the final solution to the various problems—which by the end of the book have come to include drug smuggling, the stealing and wrecking of yachts, the hiding of corpses, and the shooting of airplanes.

The three former policemen are individualized, certainly not stereotypical cops; they are interested in jazz and frequently concerned with philosophical discussion. Ultimately the clues are physical, and detection does not rely on the philosophical discourse. The novel reads easily and presents entertaining characters with style and wit.