Moord aan zee, or Murder by the sea in English, is a crime novel short story by Belgian writer Jo Claes. He has written a number of short stories, crime novels and, surprisingly, also a number of non-fiction books on mythology, hagiography and iconography. He published his first crime novel with detective character Thomas Berg in 2008, and published a number of other novels with the same character, winning quite a few awards. Murder by the sea is a short story about this same detective.
The premise of the story: Thomas Berg is a police detective from Leuven who is called to the Belgian coast because three women from his city have been murdered there. These elderly, rich women have not only been murdered, but also raped and had their middle finger cut off. Because Berg has caught a psychopathic serial killer in the past, and because the women were all from his city, he is asked to consult. Upon arriving at the coast, he takes a day to read through all the files. He then discusses the case with his colleague, a day later he goes to visit the latest crime scene, and just like that he has solved the case. The how and the why at least, the who not yet.
It went a little fast in my taste, but it’s not really meant as a book in itself. This short story was written and published to promote Claes’ new book (another crime novel with the Thomas Berg detective character). It’s definitely a great read to whet your appetite and read the other books with the police detective, which is of course the goal.
One thing I did like was that the book wasn’t too difficult to get into. Usually, a small book like this in between a books that are part of a series is very hard to understand if you haven’t read the other books. This short story didn’t waste time setting the scene, introducing characters and explaining ties with previous or upcoming books. It can really be read as a book in itself, a little pocket of a story in between bigger stories. Definitely a plus for this short story!
As for me, I didn’t feel any suspense in the story. It wasn’t really a whodunit, so it’s hard to build up tension. The story is basically just a setting of the scene: women have been killed, the detective is asked to come and consult, after a day he has cracked the case and he sticks around for another day to see the police catch the guy. Period. It does read like a train though. If you don’t have a lot of time or if you want a little introduction to the Thomas Berg character, I’d recommend this short story.
Do you guys like to read crime stories? If you have one you think I must read, please let me know in the comments.
As always, happy reading,