Sunday, December 13, 2009

Book Review: The King of the Rainy Country

The King of the Rainy CountryNicolas Freeling
Awards: Edgar
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ – –

This book is a detective story along the lines of Raymond Chandler, but it takes place in Europe. The main character, Van der Valk, is a police detective from Amsterdam who gets assigned to track down an eccentric millionaire who has run away from home. Throughout the book Van der Valk endeared himself to me by referring to Philip Marlowe and James Bond and other detectives that he felt he should be like, but wasn't. The story involves a lot of competitive skiing and car chases through the Austrian alps, west across France and finally down to the western border with Spain.

I liked the story a lot but it was a struggle to follow sometimes with all of the author's European 1960s-era historical and literary allusions. I read it with Wikipedia at hand and it was quite an education. I didn't know that bleach was originally called "eau de Javel," after the town where it was first invented, or that "blackwater" is an awful complication of malaria that brings on chills and jaundice. I learned that the gentian flower can be used to flavor liqueur and that Lethe is the name of the river of forgetfulness in Hades. I also got to learn all about the "Incident at Mayerling," an 1889 murder-suicide scandal involving the heir to the Austrian empire, and about an infamous bloodbath of a battle that was fought in the French town of Malplaquet during the War of Spanish Succession.

It's a fun read, but be prepared to pull out the encyclopedia.

1 comment:

Freg said...

Nicolas Freeling was one of my favourite writers but you're right, he does require a certain level of intelligence and / or literacy -- which i certainly don't possess! But i loved him anyway

Post a Comment

HTML Tag Instructions

Bold: To make text bold, tag it as follows:

<b>text you want to appear in bold</b>

Italic: To italicize text, tag it as follows:

<i>text you want to appear in italic</i>

Links: To add clickable links, like say to a Wikipedia article on baseball, tag it as follows:

<a href="">text you want to link from</a>

Related Posts with Thumbnails