By Nicolas Freeling

One of the nice things about Nicolas Freeling’s books is the depiction of the home life of his protagonists — whether it is Inspector van der Valk or Henri Castang. In Tsing-Boum (really a rotten title, and as you can see, a rotten cover), an added attraction is the appearance of Ruth, the daughter of Esther, who is the murderee in this book.

  • Author: Nicolas Freeling
  • Title: Tsing-Boum
  • Pages: 208
  • Published: 1987 (1969)
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • ISBN: 0-14-003298-3

As always, Freeling is more interested in the people behind the crime than in the crime itself. Do not grab Tsing-Boum hoping for an English country-house mystery only set in the Netherlands. The backstory is all-important. A pity it’s based on the Vietnam war, seen from French perspective, since that didn’t grab my interest much.

However, there are some very strong characters in this book, from sergeant Zomerlust, Esther’s husband, to Jean-Michel, Arlette’s brother. However, after reading a bunch of Freelings, it becomesall too apparent that giving his books a structure wasn’t foremost in his mind. All too often we are given a crime, van der Valk has to travel through a goodish bit of Europe (giving Freeling a chance to display his skill at couleur locale) and then meets the criminal.

Another curious tendency of Freeling’s is his predilection for vulgarity. I cannot call it anything else: in this book, in The King of the Rainy Country, in Because of the Cats (to be reviewed), in all these books, we meet a rich man who has decorated his house with the most fantastically atrocious vulgarities. The traditional elephant’s foot umbrella stand is nothing compared to the description of Jean-Michel’s house.

Oh, well — if the man likes, it’s his party. And Tsing-Boum was a good read, and parts of it I will re-read.