First line: "Adrian Frenkel sipped at his cloudy, lukewarm cocktail."
Assistant Commissioner Pieter Van In is a mess. He drinks to excess, smokes like a chimney and is about to lose his home to foreclosure. Despite it all, his detecting skills remain sharp and finely honed. This comes in handy in Peter Aspe’s second Van In novel when the bedraggled commissioner is called upon to investigate the death of a wealthy German businessman and the bombing of a beloved statue.
The German’s death is believed to be the result of a drunken fall, while the bombing appears a terrorist act. Bruges, a city dependent on tourism, finds itself in a state of panic when a letter threatens more attacks. Van In suspects a connection between the cases when the German’s autopsy reveals abnormalities that point to murder. As Van In’s pursuit of justice leads him in dangerous directions, his trusty sidekick, Sergeant Guido Versavel, and Van In’s girlfriend, Assistant DA Hannelore Maartens, attempt to keep the self-destructive cop in one piece.
Elements of the novel reflect Aspe’s original 1990s Flemish publication date, like Versavel’s new word processor, but the plot itself illustrates universality as it delves back into Europe’s history. Aspe weaves the historic into the current for a complex and intriguing mystery.
The true gold of The Midas Murders, however, is Aspe’s development of the character’s relationships. Alone Pieter Van In would be an unremarkable detective—just another drunken loner. Through his interactions with Versavel and Maartens, a humorous, empathetic, flawed human emerges. A human readers can cheer for.
The Midas Murders (ISBN: 9781605984872) is available in hardcover from Pegasus.