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by Janwillem Van de Wetering
Soho Press, September 1996
231 pages
ISBN: 1569470642

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE MAINE MASSACRE is one of the earlier mysteries in the Sergeant de Gier and commissaris series; the majority of which have been reprinted in English. This is not the best book in the series; however, it is still entertaining because of the author's ability to successfully transplant his characters to an alien situation. The commissaris receives a panicked phone call, from the United States, from his sister Suzanne. Her husband, Pete, has died and she wants the commissaris to settle her affairs so she can return to Amsterdam. The commissaris is an old rather sick man and Sergeant de Gier, through an officer exchange program, accompanies him to Maine. Once there, the situation is not as simple as it first appears. Pete's death is the sixth incident involving people who live on Orca Island. In fact Suzanne is now one of the few remaining people who live there. The local sheriff has recently taken the position that these other incidents were in fact crimes, and wants the help of both de Gier and the commissaris in solving them. Maine is also not the simple society that the foreign police assume it to be this town has a gang (the BMF bad mother F@*ckers), who are more of an intellectual gang than an urban gang. De Gier and the commissaris have their work cut out for them when de Gier is shot at and an officer is murdered.

One of the best things about this translation is that it provides footnotes (only two for those who fear them) explaining how the police system is set up in Amsterdam. This provides a much-needed explanation for certain characters behaviors and roles within the story.

The books of the Netherlands tend to be very dry (and dark, even though this one was not) and the fact that this book is a translation does not help the situation. Although the characters are fascinating and the situation is curious, the dryness of the translation causes the book to feel as though it ploughs along rather than speeds along. Another problem, which may in part due to the translation, is that the characters frequently sound the same. For example, excluding slang, an American might have the same speech pattern as a foreigner even though the languages are extremely different; hence, they would not have the same understanding of English. Whether this appears in the original book or if this is a product of the translation is unknown to me.

The above is more of a forewarning than a major criticism of the book. Seeing the United States from the outside is interesting and provides a commentary on both the pros and cons of this society. To any reader interested in foreign police officers and different cultures THE MAINE MASSACRE should be read.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, December 2002

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