"We only die if we're forgotten about. As long as someone, even one reader, remembers us... we're immortal."- Taro Suzuki (Kamen Tantei, vol. 4.)
On August 29, 2010 Albert ("Appie") Cornelis Baantjer passed away after a brief, but exhaustive, duel with the specter of death and as a commemoration of the first anniversary of his passing, I announced the intension to post a review on that date – with an open invitation attached to it to clog the live feeds of the blogosphere that day with book critiques. Only two of my confreres officially gave the heads-up that they will be participating in this little tribute, but I hope they aren't the only ones who will be submitting book reports. Yes, I'm mindful of the fact that I posted this a day before the actual date, but there's a particle chance that I won't be able log-on to the web tomorrow and I'd rather be a few hours too soon than a day too late with this tribute – and isn't that thought more important than a number on a calendar? Oh, and before you read this review, it's advisable to take a look at the previous post first.
|The Corpse Adrift|
The book I plucked randomly from my overpopulated shelves for this testimonial is Het lijk op drift (The Corpse Adrift, 1998). It's a novel from the later period, in which the plots habitually kow-tow submissively to the tyrannical reign of a thriving formula, however, what was done with this particular story attests my assertion that even the formulaic books are not entirely without interest.
The opening chapter is unusually busy, in which a grumpy DeKok and Vledder wrestle themselves free from the warm embrace of their blankets and head for a malodorous alley where two policemen found the body of a man with a blood smeared shirt, but before arriving at the scene of the crime the victim rose up and walked away – leaving two rookie cops flabbergasted. Back at the precinct, the detective duo is confronted with a man, one Gerard van Nederveld, who reports his widowed mother missing and a message from the water police informing them that they've dragged up a dead woman from the murky waters of the IJ (pronounced as AY) who had a note among her possessions with DeKok's name scribbled across the surface.
Needless to say, these spate of crimes are interlinked with eachother and the victim is swiftly identified as Alida van Nederveld-De Ruijter, the widowed mother of four grown children reported missing by her eldest son, but the family turns out to be as dysfunctional as your typical, 1920s aristocratic inbred family – rive by a mutual dislike for one another. The source of this animosity was probably the family's father, an indiscriminate collector who pumped nearly all of their money in his hobby and was not averse to employ unsavory underworld characters to acquire a particular item that caught his fancy, and was also dragged from the IJ a year previously. At first, his death was filed away as an unfortunate accident, but the autopsy on the remains of his wife turned up a couple of broken cartilage rings indicating death by strangulation – and suddenly DeKok and Vledder are burdened with what appears to be a double homicide.
Even though the plot somewhat stagnated after this opportune set-up, there's still more than enough pleasure derived from Baantjer's storytelling and the characters that inhabit this story. The fractured shards that was once the Van Nederveld family showed that he was still interested in characterization at this point and it's always fun when he brings members of the Amsterdam penose into a story. The inevitable dénouement was all right, but lacked finesse and suffered a bit from a too obvious a murderer. Nevertheless, the motivation for no less than three murders and the emotional aftermath made for a satisfying conclusion as DeKok relates the entire history behind these crimes.
While The Corpse Adrift is not Baantjer at his finest, I think it has merits and it was fun to tag-along with DeKok and Vledder again for the first time in over three years. As I said before, it was Baantjer who lit the furnace in which my undying love for the detective story has roared ever since and have always felt very much indebted to him.
And for that, I salute Appie Baantjer with a last bow: