DeKok and the Mask of Death
An Inspector DeKok Mystery by A. C. Baantjer
Review: Amsterdam Police Inspector DeKok is puzzled by the disappearance of four young women from the same hospital, which denies they were ever there in the first place, in DeKok and the Mask of Death, the 27th mystery in this series by A. C. Baantjer (and the 10th in an updated series, translated into English by Speck Press).
The first woman is reported missing by her boyfriend, Richard Netherwood. She had been feeling a bit lethargic and listless, so her doctor referred her to a hospital for additional testing. When she didn't return, Netherwood asked about her but was told by hospital staff they had no record of admitting her. DeKok later learns, almost by accident, that another woman was "lost" by the same hospital, a prostitute who worked for a local hustler. When two more women are reporting missing, DeKok knows something is seriously amiss, but no one is cooperating in providing any information that could lead him to the solution of this particularly vexing mystery.
For much of DeKok and the Mask of Death, the "gray sleuth" (as he is referred to in the text) seems restless himself, more interested in the upcoming Sail Amsterdam, an event only held every five years in which tall ships from around the world anchor in the harbor, than in his investigation. He admits as much himself in this passage about halfway through the book:
[DeKok] intensely disliked the mysterious disappearance of people. He preferred to start his investigations with an honest-to-goodness corpse — a corpse with clear signs of murder, like a strangled throat, a dented skull, recognizable bullet holes. In his long career he had never been able to immediately bring all his faculties to bear when there was no corpse. The looming possibility that the presumed deceased would suddenly appear alive and well made him unsure at the beginning of a case.
This reluctance on the part of DeKok to be engaged causes the reader to feel somewhat similarly: the case simply isn't all that interesting. It isn't until DeKok recognizes that a potentially valuable book, a "miracle book" published in 1550, is related to the women's disappearance, and the subsequent murder of man who knew one of the women, that his interest (and the reader's) is piqued.
Relatively short, and written in a spare, crisp manner with all loose ends tied up in time for the tall ships to arrive, DeKok and the Mask of Death is not the most clever of the series but satisfying nonetheless.
Acknowledgment: Speck Press provided an ARC of DeKok and the Mask of Death for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
DeKok and the Dead Harlequin
Speck Press (Trade Paperback), February 2009
ISBN-13: 9781933108278; ISBN-10: 1933108274
Location(s) referenced in DeKok and the Mask of Death: Amsterdam, Netherlands
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DeKok and the Mask of Death by A. C. Baantjer — An Inspector DeKok Mystery
Publisher: Speck Press
Publication Date: July 2009
List Price: $24.00