The Square of Revenge by Pieter Aspe

Nom d’un nom d’un nom! A Belgian detective with no moustache?

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

the square of revengeWhen Commissioner Pieter Van In of the Bruges police is called in to a robbery in a jewellery store, he is stunned by three things. One – the burglars haven’t stolen anything; instead they have dissolved the jewellery in a vat of aqua regis and left behind a note with a mysterious Latin inscription. Two – the victim, the head of the wealthy Degroof family, wants the investigation kept hush-hush. And three – the new Deputy Public Prosecutor, Hannelore Martens, is female, young and incredibly sexy, and seems to find Pieter attractive too.

Under political pressure from Ludovic Degroof, the investigation is quietly dropped, but Hannelore persuades Van In to pursue it privately. It’s soon apparent this wasn’t an isolated incident, though, when Ludovic’s grandson is kidnapped and a very strange ransom demand is received. Van In is back on the case with 48 hours to find the boy…

This is a fairly light-hearted crime novel with a lot of humour, much of it related to Pieter’s and Hannelore’s burgeoning romance. Although we very soon find out who the kidnappers are, we don’t know the motive and the plot is convoluted enough that we are kept guessing until very near the end. There’s a hint of political manoeuvring, but to be honest this aspect lost me and I found my eyes glazing over a bit – perhaps you have to understand the Belgian political system. It wasn’t vital to the plot, though.

Pieter Aspe
Pieter Aspe

Although Hannelore starts out as a strong character she gradually seems to morph into nothing more than Pieter’s love interest – perhaps her penchant for going to work wearing mini-skirts and see-through blouses has something to do with that. (Male writers and their fantasies, eh? Bless!) But nevertheless the interactions between Pieter and her are fun. I was less enamoured with the interactions within the police – with one or two exceptions, everyone seems to dislike everyone else and be trying to do each other down. The plot has it’s dark aspects but the author keeps the tone consistently light, which made it an enjoyable read but not a particularly involving one.

The translation by Brian Doyle flowed smoothly for the most part, with only a couple of points where it seemed a bit disjointed (though whether translator or author, I can’t tell). The book was originally published in 1995 and I understand it is the first in a long and successful series (one of which, intriguingly, is called Rebus). I certainly found this one enjoyable enough to look out for more in the series when they are translated.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Open Road.

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23 thoughts on “The Square of Revenge by Pieter Aspe

  1. It does sound like a night, light read, if not exactly a deeply gripping one. And I haven’t read a lot of Belgian crime fiction. Thanks for the thoughtful review and I’m glad you enjoyed this.


  2. We must have we the same reading list 🙂 – I read this yesterday and my review will be posted tomorrow. I enjoyed this read and agree the female lead was a little undeveloped ( and undressed most of the time) I am hoping the next offering in the series improves on this.


      • Haha! I thought I must have missed that bit! 😉

        I looked at the Amazon reviews for this and the series seems to have some dedicated followers in the original language – the impression I got is that the series does indeed improve as it goes on.


          • Currently struggling through Hunters in the Snow which I’m not enjoying at all. Then The Never List which I think is going to be pretty dark. And then, hurray! Jane Casey’s new book comes out next week – one of the ones I’m most looking forward to this year.

            Phew – then I’m going to take some time out from new books and read some of the many recommendations I’ve picked up while I’ve been blogging…

            What about you? Anything interesting on the horizon?


    • I got a review copy from the publisher Open Road via I’ve reviewed several Open Road titles in the past, so they drew this one to my attention as one I might enjoy. I thought it was a promising start to a series and will read at least the next couple to see how it develops, I think.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂


    • I think it probably will – the first in any series is often the weakest as there’s only so much character development you can get in, and as firsts go this was a pretty good one! 🙂


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