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Dutch author Baantjer opens museum near famed police station
Detective stories publicize Wamoesstraat scene
Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill
AMSTERDAM – The Dutch capital city of Amsterdam is the home of yet another new museum. While museums usually focus on subjects of a distant past, the country’s latest addition features the work of famed Dutch detective author A.C. Baantjer (the lead character always is Inspector DeKok), who was on hand to officially open the facility. At age 84 a retired police detective, Baantjer recently submitted his 70th manuscript for publication.
The Baantjer museum is located only doors away from the now widely-know Warmoesstraat police station in Amsterdam’s Red Light district from where the author worked for nearly three decades. Organizer Raoul Serree who works with Baantjer’s publisher, approached Café Heffen with the idea to set up a museum with Baantjer-memorabilia as a destination for interested fans. The museum has been set in the basement below the café.
The author’s books, known for their extreme suspense, have popularized Amsterdam’s red light district as a special interest destination, which may well outlast the area’s prostitution scene (the city is determined to clean it up). Among the tourists who want to see Baantjer’s crime scenes are those who join special mystery tours in which participants must find the victim of foul play. Future participants now will cap their attempt at being a detective with a visit to the museum which has been designed a brown café. The other ticket to the museum is a guided Baantjer tour of the vicinity.
The mystery tours literally are a spin-off of the popular Baantjer television series. The Dutch series, which ran twelve seasons, attracted millions of viewers with the best installment attracting over three million viewers, according to media monitors.
As an author, the former detective has sold millions of copies in the Netherlands alone. The detectives also have attracted a following in other countries. A U.S. publisher has released nine translated titles so far, and promises a minimum of one new book a year. Baantjer’s books also have been translated into Chinese, German, English, Korean and Russian. Some of these were not authorized, but were discovered by Dutch tourists abroad, likely enjoying their role as a detective. One such Baantjer fan saw the initials A.C. fronting the author’s Russian surname on a book that obviously was a detective story. Going on a hunch, he took the book along and gave it to Baantjer.
The character DeKok has its own history and is based on wartime police detective De Haan who was active in the resistance under the assumed identity of LeCocq, the French translation for De Haan and rooster.
Book reviewers generally praise Baantjer’s work as equaling the best of detective writers available in stores. The following excerpts of reviews tell the story.
A blogger: “This is a fabulous DeKok mystery once readers accept the inspectors take on the missing person case (most will agree with Vledders that its pouring rain, less than 24 hours, and she is nineteen). The story line is driven by DeKok’s investigation, as each new clue he uncovers seems to open more questions rather than resolving any of them. Fans of this superb Dutch police procedural series will gain immense pleasure from the latest translation.
Publishers Weekly: This first translation of Baantjer's work into English supports the mystery writer's reputation in his native Holland as a Dutch Conan Doyle. Baantjer's Inspector DeKok is a curmudgeon tempered by years on the Amsterdam police force into sometimes accepting the closest available proxy for justice. The first of these two novellas featuring DeKok opens with the strangling death of Fat Sonja, an Amsterdam prostitute of whom DeKok was fond. Soon a second prostitute, Pale Goldie, is killed. Baantjer successfully uses the moral ambiguity of prostitution in Amsterdam--which is legal but viewed as a threat to society--to avoid easy clichés and to make DeKok, his assistant, Vledder, the victims and the denizens of Amsterdam's red-light district into three-dimensional individuals…. His knowledge of esoterica rivals that of Holmes, but Baantjer wisely uses such trivia infrequently, his main interests clearly being detective work, characterization and moral complexity.