(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Nicolas Freeling objected to comparisons of his work with that of Georges Simenon (Van der Valk hates jokes about Jules Maigret), and the reader can see that Freeling’s work has dimensions not attempted by Simenon. Nevertheless, there are points of similarity. In both the Van der Valk and the Castang series, Freeling offered rounded portraits of realistic, likable police officers who do difficult jobs in a complicated, often impersonal world. Freeling’s obvious familiarity with a variety of European settings, ranging from Holland to Spain, also reinforced his place as a writer of Continental novels. His concerns, however, were his own. Freeling stated his conviction that character is what gives any fiction—including crime fiction—its longevity, and he concentrated on creating novels of character. Van der Valk changed and grew in the course of his series, and Castang did the same. In A Long Silence (1972), Freeling took the startling step of allowing his detective to be killed halfway through a novel. Freeling’s style evolved in the course of his career, and he relied increasingly on dialogue and indirect, allusive passages of internal narrative.