September 14, 2002

Hard Rain, by Janwillem van de Wetering

A couple of months ago I read van de Wetering's Amsterdam Cops mystery The Streetbird, and found it to be very strange indeed. My correspondent assured me that most of the books in the series were not quite that peculiar, so I ventured to try him again.

Hard Rain follows after The Streetbird, possibly immediately after, and involves a crisis in the Amsterdam police department. The old Chief Constable (equivalent to our Chief of Police) has retired, and his successor is incompetent at best, and probably crooked with it. His appointments and personnel transfers have been in keeping with this.

When the bad cops come in, the good cops have to be disposed of, naturally; in this case that means our heroes Grijpstra, de Gier, Cardozo, and their boss the commissaris (that's his rank; we never learn his full name, though his wife calls him Jan). So the commissaris is being investigated for corruption, murder cases are being closed improperly, cops are being paid off, and behind much of it is a crook who was once the commissaris' boyhood friend.

Hard Rain still has much of the ethereal, philosophical, whimsical atmosphere of The Streetbird; if you're looking for gritty, hardboiled police procedurals, this isn't the place. Although, that might be a misleading statement--I don't want to leave the impression that van de Wetering's Amsterdam is a suburb of Disneyland, either. The city is rife with drugs, prostitutes, and murder--but the writing is somehow detached from it all.

I read the book with interest, but I'm not at all sure whether or not I liked it.

Posted by Will Duquette at September 14, 2002 01:03 PM