Van der Valk is on the case again as a mysterious letter is unearthed alluding to the murder of a man named Cabestan. In the letter, the murderer is named but van der Valk must find out first who this mysterious letter-writer is. What transpires is a tale of deception and adultery as the rich Carl Merckel, the managing director of the Lutz Brothers merchant bank, lays an aVan der Valk is on the case again as a mysterious letter is unearthed alluding to the murder of a man named Cabestan. In the letter, the murderer is named but van der Valk must find out first who this mysterious letter-writer is. What transpires is a tale of deception and adultery as the rich Carl Merckel, the managing director of the Lutz Brothers merchant bank, lays an accusation of cold blooded homicide of which, he claims, his wife had no part to play.A true master of popular crime fiction and creator of the ever-popular Inspector van der Valk and Henri Castang, Nicolas Freeling has written more than thirty books and has an innate empathy with France and its culture. Born in London in 1927, Freeling has lived much of his life in Europe, notably the Vosges hills and Strasbourg. An astute, gritty writer of European flavour, his novels reflect all that is great about crime fiction....
|Number of Pages||:||213 Pages|
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Criminal Conversation Reviews
Van der Valk never disappoints and Freeling has an incredible gift for dialogue, audible and interior. This book is written from Van der Valk's point of view and then from that of Dr. Van der Post, the "criminal," who under his carefully massaged facade turns out to be Van der Valk's "semblable et frère." It's a real page-turner until we get to Van der Post's letter to Van der Valk, which drags somewhat about halfway through (until then, this was 5 stars for me). Despite this, however, the letter sheds light on Van der Post's psyche and the ending is a cracking good one. Freeling's brush paints pretentiousness with a few quick sardonic strokes and gives us an excellent peephole into spotlessly stultifying Amsterdam society.
"You are accused of bringing his death about, of your own active agency, by hitherto undetermined means."In "Criminal Conversation" (1965), the fifth novel in Nicolas Freeling's acclaimed Van der Valk series (and the twenty-sixth book of his that I have reviewed here), the author continues his experiment with having a character narrate the story, in this case a substantial part of it. Luckily, this time it is not the inspector who helps with the narration since such an attempt proved absolutely disastrous in the previous entry in the series,Double-Barrel . Here the results are encouraging and what we have is an interesting psychological crime novel.The inspector receives a letter that accuses Dr. van der Post of "doing away with a certain Cabestan, an elderly alcoholic painter." It turns out that the author of the letter is Mr. Merckel, a merchant banker and one of the most powerful people in Holland. Van der Valk - unofficially supported by his boss, Commissaris Sampson - embarks on a quiet, private investigation. In the guise of a patient he visits the doctor, and a duel of wits ensues between the two. Their verbal fencing reveals that both are "expansive talkers", which is not a surprise, given that the author is known as an exceptional craftsman of expansive prose.Part One is a relatively straightforward procedural, while Part Two is Dr. Post's memoir, in which he attempts to show off his top-notch intellect and unparalleled tactical skills. Taunting the inspector he even quotes a sentence that belongs to a police manual: "The characteristic, overriding, never-failing mark of the criminal, by which he can always be recognized, is his immense vanity." Vanity aside, the moving account of the doctor's coming-of-age years is a much better read than his arrogant superiority rants. The denouement will disappoint action-minded readers, but it does suit the overall pensive mood of the book.For most other authors the novel would rank as an excellent psychological mystery, but it is just a tad below average quality for Mr. Freeling, considering his outstanding literary output.Two and three quarter stars.
Van der Valk series, set in Amsterdam. Van der Valk has some appeal as a character, but I didn't find this book very interesting. It was, I think, trying to be a psycho-drama, and didn't quite make it. There is no mystery, only a rather sordid tangle of supposedly high-status people and a few low ones. The first half of the book is third person, mostly from Van der Valk's pov; the second half is first person by one of the characters. In this case I don't think the change of narrators worked very well. It seemed disjointed and incoherent.
I've tried my hardest but after 4 days with 70/200 pages still to go I'm giving up. I suppose the title should have been a clue but there was too much talk and not enough action for me, which wasn't compelling. I made it to part 2 but the narrative voice is so meandering it just annoys me too much to keep reading.
I didn't find the second half boring. For me it puts Freeling in the exclusive circle of crime writers who actually understand crime in its deep psychological or existential significance - a very small circle - Dostoyevsky and Simenon its most eminent members. It's not really a detective story, but it's a really interesting novel.