Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Janwillem Van de Wetering, The Maine Massacre
I recently heard an audio-book version (from Recorded Books) of Janwillem Van de Wetering's The Maine Massacre (though the image reproduced here is the cover of the SoHo Press edition of the novel, set in Maine rather than Amsterdam but featuring his usual cops (though Grijpstra is only in it briefly). The Commisaris, aging and a bit feeble, needs to go to a small town in Maine to help his sister, whose husband has just died. Grijpstra, worried about his boss, schemes to send Sergeant De Gier to the same town on an international police exchange program. The Dutch cops discover a series of murders flowing from issues of property development, preservation of nature, and class. There are frequently funny observations about the U.S. from a Dutch cop's perspective (Van de Wetering actually lived in Maine, at least part-time, in a small town, where he died, actually), and one of the pleasures of the audio version is hearing the reader, George Guidall, approximate the Dutch pronunciation of the cops' names (something I'd always wondered about--and Guidall seems to know something about Dutch pronunciation). Van de Wetering actually describes the Dutch "g" sound in the novel as sounding like someone had swallowed a fly and was trying to cough it up. De Gier's fashion sense is quite funny--his outfit is stuck firmly in 1979, when the book was published; Van de Wetering surely meant the sergeant's clothes to seem funny, especially in the wildly inappropriate context of the Maine woods, but they're funnier still for anyone who remembers the clothing of the era from the perspective of today (or anyone who is embarrassed by his own old photos dressed in the clothes of the era). The mystery aspect of the book is fairly typical of the series--I have to say, though, that I miss the atmosphere of Amsterdam, in which Grijpstra and De Gier swim comfortably, as opposed to the alien environment of small-town America. I've discovered that there is a fairly recent Dutch TV series based on the Grijpstra-De Gier books, by the same production team as had earlier produced a series based on the Baantjer books. Unfortunately the series is inaccessible here--though there is an old movie version (1979) of one of the books (Outsider in Amsterdam, I think) that IS available here (under various titles, mainly Fatal Error or Grijpstra & De Gier) because it's an early Rutger Hauer movie (he plays De Gier, appropriately enough). I've sent for a cheap DVD and if it's any good I'll review it here.