year, I reviewed De
geliefde die in het veen verdween en andere mysteries (The
Lover Who Disappeared in the Bog and Other Mysteries, 2017) by "Anne van Doorn," a penname of Dutch crime-writer M.P.O.
Books, which is a collection comprising of a handful of short
stories about two particuliere onderzoekers (private
investigators), Robbie Corbijn and Lowina de Jong – who specialize
in unsolved cases that have long gone cold. Recherchebureau
Corbijn – Research & Discover handles everything from
long-standing missing person's cases to cold, unsolved homicides and
regularly tackle problems too bizarre or unusual for the regular
is the head investigator of this two-man agency and provides the
brainpower that earns them a paycheck, while De Jong pulls triple
duty as his pupil, assistant and narrator. They work from an
apartment in a residential tower, called the Kolos van Cronesteyn,
which stands in Leiden, South-Holland, but their work brings them to
every nook and corner of the country. And even beyond.
first collection of five stories brought Corbijn and De Jong from Den
Haag and Groningen to one of the Wadden Sea Islands and the Belgian
Ardennes. And they tackled a diverse range of cases and problems such
as an inexplicable murder inside a sealed log cabin ("The
Poet Who Locked Himself In"), a vanished hiker in the Ardennes
("The Lover Who Disappeared in the Bog") and pulling apart a knot
of human tragedies closely tied to the death of a child ("The Brat
Who Went Too Far") - a modus operandi continued in the
second collection of short stories. Nearly every story in this series
is an example of how elements of the old-fashioned, traditional
detective story can be merged with the modern-day crime genre.
second volume of stories, titled De bergen die geen vergetelheid
kennen en andere mysteries (The Mountains That Do Not Forget
and Other Mysteries, 2018), consists, like its predecessor, of
five short stories. All five of them had been previously published as
separate ebooks. So let's take these stories down from the top.
boerin die niet wilde sterven" ("The Farmer's Wife Who Didn't
Want to Die") is the opening story and presents Corbijn's young
assistant with a case of her own.
de Jong graduated a course that made her an official, licensed
private investigator and Corbijn offers her an internship with a
friend and colleague in the east of the country – where she'll get
an opportunity to gain practical knowledge. During her summer
internship, De Jong is consulted by a nurse from Aruba, Liberty
Pinho, who had been out of a job ever since the nursing home, where
she worked, closed down. Recently, she was offered a position as a
live-in nurse at a farmhouse, to take care of a terminally ill woman,
but the conditions and circumstances proved to be reason of concern.
One of these conditions practically turned her in a prisoner and
there are vicious guard dogs prowling the grounds. And even more
peculiar, some of the windows are covered with paint and obscure the
view of a wooded area behind the farm!
is not really a detective story, classic or modern, but a homage to
the Victorian-era sensationalist fiction with a familial secret
hidden away in "an old, dilapidated tower from the thirteenth
century." However, the family secret here is a decidedly modern
one. So not a bad story, but one that will probably be more
appreciated by readers who love Joseph
Sheridan Lafuna and Wilkie
next story is "Het meisje dat bleef rondhangen" ("The Girl Who
Stuck Around") and is easily the standout in this collection. A
ghostly tale of murder and deception reminiscent of some of John
Dickson Carr's eerily atmospheric detective stories.
and De Jong are asked to look into a one-sided car accident on "a
completely deserted country road," which is cursed with "a
notorious bend," where people have often smashed into a row of
trees and this latest accident was seen by two witnesses – who saw
the car disappear around the corner. And this was followed by a loud
crash. The driver was seriously wounded and, before losing
consciousness, asked the paramedics how the little girl was doing.
However, nobody else had been involved in this accident. Let alone a
child. This was not the only unexplained accident that occurred on
that stretch of deserted road.
years previously, an identical accident happened on exactly the same
spot. Apparently, the driver had tried to avoid hitting someone who
was standing in the middle of the road, but nobody was actually
there. The driver had not survived the collision with one of the
trees. Corbijn and De Jong learn that a child, Marion, had died on
that road and her mother, who lives nearby, is convinced that the
ghost of the child is haunting her home and the place where she died.
The two detectives even get a glimpse of the ghostly girl, "a
frightened face," looking at them between the thick, dark
already mentioned that the story reminded me of the work of my
favorite mystery writer, Carr, but the plot really could have been
used for one of his own short stories from The
Department of Queer Complaints (1940), which is part of a
lamentably short-lived series and a literary relative of this one –
as both have a penchant for bizarre or even (borderline) impossible
crimes. So an excellent story that stands with the best collected in
the previous compendium and genuinely tragic on account of the
psychological toll the ghostly apparitions had on the grieving
parents of the dead girl.
third story lends its title to this collection, "De bergen die geen
vergetelheid kennen" ("The Mountains That Do Not Forget"),
which brings Corbijn to "the most isolated valley in northern
Albania." He's asked by colleague to give a second opinion on
an unsolved locked tower murder that happened there in May, 1933!
tells the story to De Jong and gives a detailed account of the
customs and traditions of the region, which lay at the heart of the
plot. Apparently, a lot of the background was drawn from Edith
Albania (1909). Anyway, a long-lasting bloedvete
(blood-vendetta) between two families that had begun the theft of
sheep has culminated in dozens of deaths on both side of those cursed
mountains. Only during the communist occupation did the weapons
cease, because the regime was cracking down on the old customs.
Everyone who participated were taken away and executed. And until the
1990s, the mountains were at peace.
However, ever since the fall of
the Soviet Union the old feuds have been resurrected and the murder
of woman in 1933 is at the core of this long-standing vendetta, who
was shot against the rules of the Code, when she was hiding in the
locked attic of a kulla e ngujimit – a so-called "locked-in
tower" where the men used to hit when a hit was called on one
of them by their rivals. There was only a small, open window at the
top of the tower, but it looked out on a sheer drop ending in a
river, but could a shot have been fired through the window from the
ground? There was no gun found inside the attic room, but there were
scorch-marks on the body. Suggesting that she was shot at close
the solution is not only very obvious, but borrowed from a well-known
short detective story by an even more well-known mystery writer. And
the explanation was used by another writer in an impossible crime
story with a very similar setting (i.e. a locked tower room).
However, the attraction of this story is its backdrop and the history
of its people. And the (hilarious) consequences Corbijn's solution
has for him and his colleague. Needless to say, they had to run. :)
next story is "Het hoertje dat geen spoor achterliet" ("The
Whore Who Left No Trace Behind") and, as modern as the title may
sound, this was my return to Baker Street, but, in this case, it's De
Warmoesstraat. A street where, once upon a time, stood a notorious
police station where the man who formally introduced me to the
detective story, the late A.C.
Baantjer, worked for three decades as a policeman and homicide
detective. Bureau Warmoesstraat also featured prominently in his many
delightful police/mystery novels. I really miss Baantjer. Anyway...
this story, "a dingy hotel on the Warmoesstraat" functions
as the backdrop. A writer of erotic thrillers, Marlinde Vries a.k.a "Patricia Rooth," caught her husband, Gerhard von Krefeld, with a
prostitute in a hotel room and stabbed him to death – or so the
evidence suggests. However, her brother simply refuses to accept to
the conclusion of the police and hires Corbijn and De Jong to
exonerate his sister by finding out who really killed Von Krefeld. A
search that begins with finding the prostitute who vanished without a
trace after the murder and the police had been unable to find her.
She's not only a witness, but a potential suspect as well.
without the clues, I anticipated the solution as soon as the murderer
entered the picture. But the plot hang together nicely and, as said,
there was some clues planted here and there. I really liked this
brief return to the most famous street in Dutch detective and police
the last story in this collection, "De dame die niet om hulp had
gevraagd" ("The Lady Who Had Not Asked for Help"), ends the
collection on a high-note and functions as bridge to the second,
full-length novel in this series. But more on that later.
is impatiently waiting on a confirmation on whether or not the
skeleton remains that were recently found belong to a student who has
been missing since 1978. So, to kill the time, De Jong suggests he
tells her story about the time he was a still a policeman and he
tells him about the curious case of an elderly lady who had not asked
them for help. Mrs. Olde Meierink is an old woman who lives in the
middle of the woods and her lonely house can only be reached by "a
long, dirt road, full of holes and bends, right through the forest,"
but the police and even the fire department regularly have to
traverse that road after a frantic call to the emergency number –
only to discover that nothing has happened. Mrs. Meierink claims she
never called for help and she can even provide a cast-iron alibi for
one of the time she supposedly called the police. So who was making
the calls and what is the motive behind them?
and De Jong have to root around the deep, dark past and family
history of Mrs. Meierink, which reaches all the way back to Drenthe,
South Africa and Rhodesia. The phone-calls turns out to be key
elements of a delightful revenge plot with a great, motivational
drive. I was reminded of Edward
D. Hoch's "The Theft of the Onyx Pool," collected in The
Thefts of Nick Velvet (1978), which had a character with a
scheme that was similar in nature and with exactly the same
motivation, but with a completely different approach. So a solid
story to close out this collection.
a whole, The Mountains That Do Not Forget is a nicely balanced
collection of traditional-minded, plot-driven detective stories
presented as short story forms of the contemporary misdaadroman
(crime novel). They're a sad reminder what the crime genre could have
looked like today had modern-day writers not abandoned logically
constructed plots, clueing and such delightful tropes as impossible
crimes and dying messages. We could have been like Japan!
can't deny I feel a tinge of nationalistic pride that my country has
produced a writer who, in this day and age, writes in the tradition
of Doyle, Christie and Carr. It makes me feel all imperial inside.
So, yes, I quite enjoyed these five stories.
a final, related note, that second, full-length novel I mentioned is
scheduled for release in May, titled De
student die zou trouwen (The Student Who Was To Get
Married, 2018), which takes place in my own backyard and
naturally love the book-cover. However, I really should read the
first novel, De
ouders keerden niet terug (The Parents Did Not Return,
2017), before getting around to that second one. So I'll try to worm
the first one in, sometime, next month or so. So you better stick