「One More Time, One More Chance」（山崎まさよし）
I'm always looking for a sign of you
Even at the intersection, even in my dreams
Even though you couldn't possibly be there
"One More Time, One More Chance" (Yamazaki Masayoshi)
While I understand it's to protect the smaller novelists and publishers, I do always lament the fact the Netherlands has a rather rigid law for book prices. It's definitely a reason why I seldom buy Dutch books (and thus the law has the opposite effect in my case).
De Laatste Kans is the fifth novel in the District Heuvelrug series by Dutch writer M.P.O. Books. My colleague over at Beneath The Stains Of Time has written very often and praisingly on his blog about M.P.O. Books' series as a good, recent Dutch police procedural that actually invokes the spirit of the puzzle plots we so love, and I had been saying for years I would try reading one of the books. This is the first time I read something by Books by the way, but De Laatste Kans can be read without any knowledge of prior entries in the series.
The most memorable feature of the De Laatste Kans is the structure: the story constantly jumps between a very varied cast of characters, both the police and the suspects, giving you a glimpse in each of their minds. In videogames, this is usually referred to as a "zapping system", i.e. the reader is zapping between "channels" that each focus on a different character (games I discussed with a zapping system are: Machi, 428, Detective Conan: Marionette Symphony and Detective Conan: Phantom Rhapsody). The result is that De Laatste Kans seldom bores, as it keeps on giving the reader something different, without feeling chaotic or padded out. While there are more books that feature jumping between points of view, the fact it's all neatly organized through time-stamps really reminds me of the zapping systems of videogames.
The plot of De Laatste Kans was also surprisingly well-constructed. The book had a bit of bad luck: I was juggling between De Laatste Kans and another book that just happened to do something similar, so I realized who Jacques Vermin's murderer probably was very early on, but that didn't make De Laatste Kans any bit less fun: it is still a well-written detective story. One hint in particular was wonderfully done. A minor gripe I had was with some coincidences that led to the murder, but nothing game-breaking.
As I said, this is the fifth book in a running series and features a fairly wide cast starring Inspector Peterson and his team of detectives. It appears that these characters have been developed quite a lot in the run of the series, and the dynamics within the team is also a crucial part of De Laatste Kans. It never interferes with the puzzle plot and we're not talking about oh-woe-is-me-life-of-a-police-officer, but there is a good part of the novel about the people investigating the case. I guess that people who have been reading from the start will be more emotionally invested in the caracters, but even without really knowing these characters, De Laatste Kans strikes a good balance between the plot and its characters (and luckily in favor of the plot).
But for the Dutch readers here, De Laatste Kans is a recommended read as a fun detective novel that actually delivers. For the non Dutch-readers, alas, I don't think M.P.O. Books are available in English yet. Then again, most of the books I discuss are not available in English...
Original Dutch title(s): M.P.O. Books "De Laatste Kans"