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INSPECTOR ANDERS AND THE SHIP OF FOOLS
by Marshall Browne
Minotaur Books, July 2002
272 pages
$23.95
ISBN: 0312278217


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Inspector Anders, Interpol senior inspector, was introduced in The Wooden Leg of Inspector Anders, where he cleverly solved a situation involving the Italian Mafia. World weary, introspective, an amputee who lost a leg as a result of a bombing earlier in his career, Anders is once again involved in a highly complex case which originates in Frankfurt, Germany. A drug company is in merger talks, and their joint boards are meeting to finalize the arrangements. Somehow, a bomb has been planted in the conference room, and the 16 board members are now nothing more than DNA fragments. It's a horrific scene, and the message is quite clear‹companies considering mergers that will result in widespread unemployment will be targeted for similar treatment.

A group going by the name of "Judgment Day" claims responsibility for the deaths, although it's also possible that this was the work of a very deranged individual. The local and national law enforcement agencies come together to allay the threat, and Interpol is called in as well with Anders and his dapper partner Matucci investigating the situation. Interpol's main contribution in cases like this is its computerized criminal file and database of major crimes. There are 3 other mergers between various companies in various countries in the works, and it's a guessing game as to which group will be next. The perpetrator(s) provide some guidance by contacting a local reporter and, using a synthesized voice, giving information on the possible next hits. The most tantalizing clues are snippets of quotes from the 15th century work, Ship of Fools, which lead Anders and Matucci to locations in France, Belgium and Germany.

Further acts of terrorism occur. It's very puzzling how there are generally people in the vicinity of each of these acts who have no recollection of anything strange occurring before the actual killings. It appears that a master hypnotist may be using his talents to wipe out their memories of the events; and that Anders is not impervious to his tactics, teetering on the edge of sanity at some points. This to me was a weak element of the book and a too convenient a device for creating an invisible evil force. The resolution of the book really stretched credulity as this was inconsistently played out.

Although there was a lot going on in the book, the pace seemed slow to me. The book is actually a locked room mystery, with several rooms involved, each with their own set of associated puzzles and red herrings. Politics and greed create some interesting bedfellows, and there aren't too many characters in this book who could be labeled "good guys".

Anders is an interesting character. He's a bit older, rather introspective and highly intuitive, although some of his hunches are horrendously wrong. He is very enamored of women who have vulnerabilities and life experience. In spite of that, it's difficult for the reader to feel that they "know" Anders (what IS his first name?). On many occasions, his politeness is noted‹he is of the urbane, philosophical mold created by authors such as Donna Leon and Michael Dibdin, although he is lacking some of the humor and warmth of their creations.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, October 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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