Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My Queer Dean!

I lose control 
春めく季節に まだ幼い瞳は終幕を恐れた
「浸食 lose control」(L'Arc~en~Ciel)

I lose control
In the spring-like season, my eyes, still young, were afraid of the end
"Erosion - Lose Control" (L'Arc~en~Ciel)

I don't really make it a rule of anything, but I think I've managed to write about at least one Dutch novel every year now. No idea whether more will follow this year though.

The discovery of a man shot between his eyes brings Chief-Inspector Gisella Markus to the Treekerpunt. The Treekerpunt, a recreational area once known for its natural beauty, had lately become infamous as a popular place for cruising gays to conduct different kinds of recreation. The victim was a well-known visitor of the area and examination shows he had intercourse before died. While Gisella keeps an open view on the case and makes no assumptions about the motive, her assistant Niels, a gay person himself, is convinced the murder was commited by someone with no-so-happy thoughts about homosexuals. The clashing opinions within the team about the murder, but also about the gay community seriously hamper the investigation and few discoveries have been made by the tme a second murder is commited on a gay person, exactly six weeks after the first murder in a similar place and style of execution. While still not convinced about the motive, Gisella realizes that a serial killer is on the loose whom her team might not be able to stop if they keep fighting each other in M.P.O. Books' 2014 novel Cruise Control.

Oh, and just so there's no confusion: this is a Dutch novel despite the title and it is not available in English (at the moment).

Cruise Control is the eight novel in Dutch authro M.P.O. Books' District Heuvelrug police procedurals, of which I've only read De Laatste Kans (you can find a lot more on the series at my collegue over at Beneath the Stains of Time). Little knowledge of the series is not a big problem though, as Cruise Control introduces a partially new cast, lead by Gisella Markus. While Bram Petersen still remains the main brains of the series (here in a guest armchair detective role), much of the novel is focused on Gisella and her team (also featuring several familiar faces from the series). There are quite some references to earlier novels, especially about the interaction between the characters, but nothing that feels too alienating. I do have to warn that there are (major) spoilers pertaining certain characters though, something hard to avoid as they all seem to develop throughout the books.

Cruise Control strikes a nice balance in the investigation into the murders as well as the rather problematic workings of the police team, as the topic of homosexuality seems to conjure up a variety of emotions within each member that don't work too well together. Obviously, the two topics are closely intertwined, but sometimes the book focuses more on the footwork, while at other times more on character interactions. It keeps the reader on their toes, though I did think the book to be a bit too long for its own good.

The investigation into the serial killing is great though. The book keeps you guessing at whether the murderer is 'simply' a gay-killer, someone trying to hide his true motives by posing as one or perhaps something complete else and little discoveries now and then help the story keep its momentum. A lot of serial killer stories in puzzle plot stories tend to turn into missing link stories, but Cruise Control isn't one formally. Still, the story is strongly rooted in fair-play puzzle plot tradition, with proper clues scattered across the book that point to the right person. Pesonally, I thought that one psychological hint was a bit weak (seriously, I think a lot of people would say that), but overall, I was quite pleased when the smokescreen disappated and all was explained. Oh, and bonus points for the book for having figures of the crime scenes.

This final point isn't about this book in particular, but Dutch books in general, but it's been a while since I bought a Dutch book and I'm still surprised at the prices. I can buy two, perhaps three Japanese pockets including shipping for the same price as one Dutch paperback...

Well, there's not left for me to say about M.P.O. Books' Cruise Control, but conclude that it is a solid puzzle plot detective novel. And as this is the latest novel, I guess all I can do is go back in the series, so expect more on the series somewhere in the future.

Original Dutch title(s): M.P.O. Books "Cruise Control"


  1. have the authors of kindaichi ever explained why they plagiarized soji shimada once ?

  2. Glad to read you're enjoying this severely underrated series and there are more excellent entries in it to look forward to. Like De blikvanger and Een afgesloten huis.

    1. EAH's review is scheduled for next month (I found a couple of old boekenbonnen a while ago ;))