Picks and Pans Review: De Witt's War
by Hans Koning
De Witt is the mayor of a small Dutch town. The Nazis have just taken over his country as this novel begins, and he is in the uneasy position of trying to decide how to deal with this fact. Then, in sequence, a wealthy stockbroker, another financier and the wife of the first victim are murdered. The Germans arrest 12 townsmen and threaten to kill them if the murderer is not revealed. The mayor becomes obsessed by the crimes and in trying to unravel the reason for the killings suspects the Germans are implicated and becomes a fugitive in fear for his life. This is far from a perfect book: Although Koning writes in English, his prose sometimes reads almost as if it were translated. The details are wonderfully authentic, though, and Koning, a widely published journalist and author of several kinds of fiction, as well as plays, has made this World War II suspense yarn a swift and absorbing one. De Witt's girlfriend may be a whore, but at least she isn't a cliché with a heart of gold. (Pantheon, $12.95)
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