THE SQUARE OF REVENGE
By Pieter Aspe
Translated by Brian Doyle
Pegasus Crime, 2013 ($24.95)
Reviewed by Larry Jung
The pleasant tourist town of Bruges is shaken by a singular burglary. For one thing, the robbers easily by passed the security that guarded the jewelry store. The robbers were so bold or confident that they went about their business even as passer-bys looked in. But nothing was taken. Instead a small fortune in jewelry was dissolved in corrosive acid and a cryptic message left behind. The target seems to be the Degroofs, a prominent and influential family.
Such a sensational crime is just what Assistant Commissioner of police Pieter Van In needs to kick him out of his mid-life crisis. Life, both professionally and personally, seems to be pointless. The death of his wife makes Van In turn inward and to seek the small comfort in the house he shared with his wife, though he can no longer afford the mortgage. He has been sidelined for promotion to Chief of Police. The current Chief is openly grooming a nephew for the post when the Chief retires. All the good cases are given to the nephew. So Van In is surprised that he is assigned the Degroof jewelry store burglary.
But when Van In is briefed by the Chief of Police, the former learns why. The Degroofs don't want any publicity about the vandalism. Since everything that was destroyed was insured, the family is not hurt financially. With the impending elections, the last thing the Degroofs desire is the press prying for dirt. Van In is told to close the case quickly and quietly. Van In is not expected to make an arrest.
Doing a sham investigation goes against Van In's character. Fortunately the new Assistant Prosecutor on the case is eager to catch the criminals. This encourages Van In to ignore his verbal orders and to really investigate. It doesn't hurt that the Assistant Prosecutor Hennlore Matens is a young and very attractive female (fashion model looks and wears mini-skirts). Also this is her first case.
This is an excellent addition to the police procedurals recently being translated into English and published in the United States. The author Pieter Aspe has an excellent sense of suspense that pulls the reader from chapter to chapter. The cast of characters are familiar — old family with money, useless younger generation, good cops, not so good cops, very clever villain — but well done. At first, I was mildly disappointed with the cliché love interest between the main character and the attractive female partner. Of course she is the picture of a middle-aged man sexual fantasies. She is described as having the looks of a fashion model and wearing mini-skirts during the investigation. But Van In's relationship with Hennlore Matens works because she revives the idealism and sense of justice of Van In's youth to solve the case, not just close it. The plot twists and turns to keep the reader wondering. All together, an entertaining read.
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