I love reading, and I love to travel. Where possible - which is almost always - I try to combine the two, both by taking books with me for the train, plane, or bus rides, and also by buying local books from the places I go (crime novels and folklore collections, primarily). As I'm spending Christmas in Bruges, Belgium, I've been scouring the local bookstores - in between exploring the city and scoffing frites, stoofvlees, and a beer or three (no waffles, yet) - to see if I could pick up some translated Belgian crime fiction.
I loved Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot books when I was growing up, and also enjoyed Herge's Tintin cartoons (a young reporter investigating mysteries and having adventures), but I wasn't aware of any contemporary Belgian crime writing until this week. Inspired by my travels here, I discovered that Georges Simenon, the famed creator of the famous French detective Maigret, was actually born in Belgium (I'd always assumed he was French). Although I have some Maigret books, I felt I needed to acquire some modern-day Belgian-set crime fiction written by a Belgian author.
The Internet uncovered a few options (most Belgian crime novels haven't been translated into English), including one that particular appealed to me: THE SQUARE OF REVENGE by Pieter Aspe. Set right here in Bruges, with the detectives travelling down the very same streets I was strolling. Unfortunately, it was hard-to-find, in English. Several bookstores had the French and Dutch versions, but it wasn't until today that I managed to spy an English-language copy (I want to be able to read it, after all). Success!!
Here's the blurb:
An ancient family name hides sinister secrets of love and betrayal, riches and revenge in the heart-pounding English-language debut by Pieter Aspe.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.
So I'm looking forward to this memento from my Bruges Christmas - a crime novel set right here.
Have you read any Belgian crime fiction?