Thursday, September 10, 2015

Down the Mountain

flying fall down 
「flying」(Garnet Crow)

flying fall down
Taking flight I come falling down
To your side
"flying" (Garnet Crow)

Man, that's some awesome cover art, I thought as I was pondering about what to write as the introduction of this post.

Dutch lawyer Willy Hendriks is invited by his good friend Geoffrey Gill, the famous English detective, for a walking holiday through the Alps. They are of course not the only people with such plans and during their trip Hendriks and G.G. also meet some fellow mountaineers at the local inns and lodges. One of these mountaineers is found dead one day, having fallen from a cliff and while the deceased was not a particularly nice man during life, Hendriks, G.G. and another man who had spent the last few days traveling with the deceased help the police in arranging the whole business of getting the remains back to his homeland. While G.G. says nothing to the police, he is actually convinced the fall of the man was not just a simple accident and he slowly unravels the mystery that surroundes the death of the mountaineer in Ivans' De medeplichtigen ("The Accomplices", 1918).

Ivans, pen name of Jakob van Schevichaven, is often considered the first Dutch professional mystery writer who started his rather prolific detecting career in 1917 with De man uit Frankrijk ("The Man From France"), which introduced the world to the renounced international detective Geoffrey Gill (G.G. to his friends) and his friend Willy Hendriks, a Dutch lawyer who acts as G.G.'s Watson and the narrator of the stories. The debut book and the second book (Het spook van Vöröshegy or "The Ghost of Vöröshegy", 1918) are quite entertaining to read, as Ivans keeps pushing the plot forward and the reader is kept guessing, but the mystery plots are not very strong: the impossible crime angle of Het spook van Vöröshegy for example is very weak, while the whodunnit plot of De man uit Frankrijk is a bit unbelievable.

De medeplichtigen is the third book in the G.G. series and I enjoyed it a lot more than the first two books. The deductions are actually fairly interesting (and don't feel like they're coming out of nowhere for a change), and while the plot has some similarities with De man uit Frankrijk, I'd say that De medeplichtigen is easily the better version of the same idea. Also, G.G., as the Sherlock Holmes-character, is often in possession of a lot more information than Hendriks in a lot of the novels (he usually drags Hendriks along with one of his investigations, but does not tell him everything), but in De medeplichtigen it's good to see him actually investigating the case and the mystery right from the start, rather than seeing him "Yeah, I already know everything and all, but I can't tell you until the end of the book".

Interesting about the G.G. series is that there's actually a fairly strong focus on character development. Hendriks meets his not-yet wife in the first book, is married by the second, has adopted a daughter by the third. Several friends and acquaintances met in earlier adventures also return in later adventures (which also happens in De medeplichtigen). It's not really neccessary to read previous adventures, but it's funny to see how Ivans slowly fleshed out the world. The G.G. series is also surprisingly internationally oriented. Ivans is a Dutch writer and we have a Dutch lawyer as the narrator, but most of the adventures are set in other countries like France, Hungary and Germany.

De medeplichtigen is the first G.G. novel I really just liked, without any real complaints about the mystery-side of the plot. I have to be honest though and say that of the four, five novels I've read, this was the only one that succeeded in that. The G.G. novels are always fairly entertaining reads (in terms of thrills and little mysteries thrown at the reader), but often the pay-off at the conclusion turns out to be quite disappointing with rather weak explanations for everything. De medeplichtigen however was fun. 'Nuff said.

Original Dutch title(s): Ivans "De medeplichtigen"


  1. How very interesting... I considered picking Ivans for my next read and this one sounds like one of Glyn Carr's mountaineering mysteries. Hopefully, we'll be able to uncover a (locked room) mystery of note among his work, because information available on Dutch websites is completely useless.

    By the way, where are the reviews of the first two books? Posted out of order and still waiting in the queue?

    1. I have so many reviews waiting in the queue, I can actually afford not to write reviews for everything I read! (especially if I can't think of enough interesting things to note for a full review ^_~').