Setting: Sorbinowo, somewhere in Europe.
Story: An anonymous tip off warns Sergeant Kluuge of a murder at the Pure Life summer (confirmation) camp in Sorbinowo. But there’s no body, and all are accounted for. Then another tip off leads to the discovery of a dead young girl. Is this victim the first? And is the missing Pure Life sect leader, running because of guilt? Kluuge, in the front line while his boss is on holiday, calls for help from Inspector Van Veeteren.
Good Stuff: The story is well written, atmospheric and involving. Van Veeteren’s colleagues are given more coverage, and allowed to fill out as real people. The tension is kept taut. The observations by the main characters about how people behave – in the Pure Life sect, and towards that group – are thoughtful. and sometimes challenging. The author seems to be addressing prejudice he knows or has experienced, but is undoubtedly trying to add to our understanding of the human condition. (A tough ask.)
Not So Good Stuff: Some of Van Veeteren’s introspective reflections are overindulgent; they add little, if anything, to the character, and are strangely inconsistent in places. For example, when a policeman tells of the loss of a limb in active duty, there is no comment, and no inner contemplation. But this reader would have loved to know Van Veeteren’s thoughts about it. Also, the key to the case – what set Van Veeteren on the right path – seems so incredible as to be almost beyond belief. However, take away that link, and the rest of the detective work is solid and authentic.