Synopses & Reviews
The beautiful medieval architecture of Bruges belies the dark longings of her residents. When the wealthy and powerful Ludovic Degroof's jewelry store is broken into, nothing is stolen, but the jewels have been dissolved in jars if aqua regia, an acid so strong it can even melt gold. In the empty safe is a scrap of paper on which a strange square has been drawn. At first, Inspector Van In pays little attention to the paper, focusing on the bizarre nature of the burglary. But when Degroof's offspring also receive letters with this same square, Van In and the beautiful new DA Hannelore Martens find themselves unraveling a complex web of enigmatic Latin phrase and a baroness' fallen family and Degroof's relationship with a hostage grandchild, ransomed for a priceless collection of art.
"Offbeat characters and an unusual plot lift Belgian author Aspe's first Pieter Van In novel to be translated into English. A relaxing Sunday for the detective inspector ends with a call from his boss, Chief Commissionaire De Kee, directing him to a bizarre crime in Bruges. A jewelry store has been burgled, but the brazen intruders didn't steal the valuable contents. Instead, they dumped the loot in an aquarium tank filled with corrosive chemicals that destroyed bracelets, rings, necklaces, and earrings. Revenge against the Degroof family, owners of the store, appears to be the obvious motive, but De Kee throws Van In a curve by saying that it was not 'essential per se that the culprit or culprits be arrested.' Van In and his eccentric cast of colleagues will be welcome companions for many readers, who will probably find comparisons to Simenon's Maigret. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The Flemish Georges Simenon." Le Figaro (France)
"A very likeable and very politically incorrect group of detectives. Humor is permanent, the plot is well constructed,and the whole story extremely exotic." L'Express (France)
"To sell a million copies in only ten years! This never happened in Flanders before." Het Laatste Nieuws (Belgium)
"Aspe is and always will be one of our best authors. An exciting murder mystery, a pinch of humor, and a generous serving of sex are among the highlights of the series." Crimezone.nl (Belgium)
" " Marilyn Stasio
"The Flemish Georges Simenon." The New York Times Book Review
Pulp fiction is great for the beach, but there’s nothing like a good destination mystery to take you out of town for the summer. This category has two branches: the Enthusiastic American Abroad travelogue and the I’m a Native and You’re Not procedural. Since the latter often take place in Italy, The Square of Revenge, by the Belgian author Pieter Aspe, is a welcome addition.
Set in the splendid medieval city of Bruges, it stars Inspector Pieter Van In, a brusque cop with every bad habit you can think of. The story opens with an extremely vindictive crime: thieves have broken into an exclusive jewelry store, but instead of making off with the loot they dump it in a tank of corrosive chemicals. Van In’s intuitive and often impulsive detection style can be disorienting, but his powers of observation are sharp and his insider’s view of this ancient and grandly aloof city are priceless." Marilyn Stasio
An ancient family name hides sinister secrets of love and betrayal, riches and revenge in the heart-pounding English-language debut by Pieter Aspe.
About the Author
From Publishers Weekly
By Lenny Picker
April 27, 2013
Belgian Insp. Pieter Van In makes his U.S. debut in Pieter Aspe’s The Square of Revenge.
The series has already spawned bestsellers in Europe. Which of your many jobs has given you the most insight into people?
While working as a caretaker at the Chapel of the Holy Blood in Bruges, I had plenty of time to observe tourists and locals. Often I felt like a piece of furniture, a part of the chapel, which gave me the opportunity to watch and learn unobtrusively. I’ve encountered people from all over the world at the chapel.
Did your stint with the maritime police help you to write crime fiction?
Somewhat. I encountered only small-time criminals while working for the maritime police. Once I started writing about Inspector Van In, I got in touch with real criminals as a way of researching my books. I wanted to understand their situation, to empathize with them, so that every time I encountered a criminal, whatever the crime committed, I asked myself the question, “What if that ever happened to me?” or “What if I had the same childhood or education, what if I was in the same position? Would I become that criminal?” There is a delinquent in everyone, but it only comes out because of certain triggers. That fascinated me.
In The Square of Revenge, intruders break into a Bruges jewelry store and destroy jewelry by dissolving it. Where did you get this idea?
My criminal is motivated by a desire for vengeance. I had read about a chemical procedure while I was doing some research about the Middle Ages. During that period, the alchemists tried to create gold out of lead and other elements. Gold is symbolic—it represents God, richness, something superior. The creation of gold out of lead, the purification of lead, is a metaphor for how a human being can raise oneself above mediocrity, how a human being can aspire to be the best version of him or herself. So, destroying jewelry seemed a perfect means for revenge.
What are Americans’ biggest misconceptions about Belgium?
That Belgium doesn’t exist. Brussels, our capital, is often better known than our country itself. There also is a big difference between the Dutch part, Flanders, and the French part, Wallonia, that most people don’t understand. Belgians are what we call “bourgondisch.” It means that they enjoy life, including good food and a nice drink. We also have a café culture, so we often go for a drink in the nearest pub. In the end, I think Belgians, when it comes down to culture, are more like the Spanish, French, or Italian. In contrast to Van In, Dutch, German, and Scandinavian detectives are more cold and businesslike.