Here in the U.S., my Dutch teacher used both the television series and the board game as teaching tools. Though his country is small, Baantjer is a big star, in other words, in a way equalled by few crime writers anywhere.
Perhaps because of the television show's pace, humor and roster of skilled character actors, though, I've liked it better than I did the novel or two that I'd read in the series. But I think the books' appeal may come through better in DeKok and the Dead Harlequin, newly reissued in English translation by Speck Press. Here, De Kok muses about the Dutch national character:
"To form any sort of gang, or even a `group of guys,' is not all that common in this country. The Dutch criminal is by nature a pure individualist. He doesn't form groups; at most he'll work with a single partner,"to which his occasionally impetuous but here thoughtful colleague, Vledder, replies:
"You know ... when NATO conducts exercises, the story is the Dutch army always gets the lowest ratings in unit maneuvers, but the Dutch soldier is always rated first in guerrilla warfare. Perhaps with the inspired leadership of Pierre Brassel, the so-called gang managed to overcome their natural aversion to cooperation. Who knows what he promised them."That's a nice, low-key piece of observation, off-beat, yet pertinent to the investigation at hand. DeKok's rumpled appearance recall Columbo, but his compassion and sharp, wry observations may remind readers of Baantjer's late countryman Janwillem van de Wetering.
© Peter Rozovsky 2009