The Square of Revenge: An Inspector Van In Novel [NOOK Book]


An ancient family name hides sinister secrets of love and betrayal, riches and revenge in the heart-pounding English-language debut by European crime sensation 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 robbed, nothing is stolen, but the jewels have ...
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The Square of Revenge: An Inspector Van In Novel

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An ancient family name hides sinister secrets of love and betrayal, riches and revenge in the heart-pounding English-language debut by European crime sensation 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 robbed, nothing is stolen, but the jewels have been dissolved in jars of aqua regia, an acid so strong that it can melt even 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 children begin to receive letters with this same enigmatic square, Van In and the beautiful new District Attorney, Hannelore Martens, find themselves engaged in solving the mystery of a complex web of Latin phrases, a baroness’ fallen family, and Degroof’s unsettling relationship with a hostage grandchild, who is being ransomed for a priceless collection of art.
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
Van In's intuitive and often impulsive detection style can be disorienting, but his powers of observation are sharp and his insider's view of this ancient and grandly aloof city are priceless.
Publishers Weekly
Offbeat characters and an unusual plot lift Belgian author Aspe’s first Pieter Van In novel to be translated into English. A relaxing Sunday for the detective inspector ends with a call from his boss, Chief Commissionaire De Kee, directing him to a bizarre crime in Bruges. A jewelry store has been burgled, but the brazen intruders didn’t steal the valuable contents. Instead, they dumped the loot in an aquarium tank filled with corrosive chemicals that destroyed bracelets, rings, necklaces, and earrings. Revenge against the Degroof family, owners of the store, appears to be the obvious motive, but De Kee throws Van In a curve by saying that it was not “essential per se that the culprit or culprits be arrested.” Van In and his eccentric cast of colleagues will be welcome companions for many readers, who will probably find comparisons to Simenon’s Maigret. (June)
Le Figaro (France)
“The Flemish Georges Simenon.”
L'Express (France)
“A very likeable and very politically incorrect group of detectives. Humor is permanent, the plot is well constructed,and the whole story extremely exotic.”
Het Laatste Nieuws (Belgium)
“To sell a million copies in only ten years! This never happened in Flanders before.” (Belgium)
“Aspe is and always will be one of our best authors. An exciting murder mystery, a pinch of humor, and a generous serving of sex are among the highlights of the series.”
Marilyn Stasio - The New York Times Book Review

Pulp fiction is great for the beach, but there’s nothing like a good destination mystery to take you out of town for the summer. This category has two branches: the Enthusiastic American Abroad travelogue and the I’m a Native and You’re Not procedural. Since the latter often take place in Italy, The Square of Revenge, by the Belgian author Pieter Aspe, is a welcome addition.Set in the splendid medieval city of Bruges, it stars Inspector Pieter Van In, a brusque cop with every bad habit you can think of. The story opens with an extremely vindictive crime: thieves have broken into an exclusive jewelry store, but instead of making off with the loot they dump it in a tank of corrosive chemicals. Van In’s intuitive and often impulsive detection style can be disorienting, but his powers of observation are sharp and his insider’s view of this ancient and grandly aloof city are priceless.

Library Journal
The small medieval Belgian city of Bruges is not the most exciting place in which to be a detective. There are plenty of tourists and the pickpockets who target them, but not a lot of criminal intrigue. Then one early Sunday morning in the most quaint and exclusive part of the city, beat cops stumble upon the Degroof jewelry store with its windows smashed. Upon closer inspection, most of the jewelry is missing from its shelves and the only tangible clue is a piece of paper with Latin words drawn into a square. The weary, middle-aged DI Pieter Van In is assigned the case along with the new and bright new DA Hannelore Martin. Together they will uncover the personal scandals of three generations of the Degroof family and learn more about religious sects and monastic orders than either of them would have guessed was possible. And with each discovered secret comes another outrageous act of violence, with another small square of Latin writing found somewhere at the crime scene. VERDICT The best-selling European series that follows the criminal trials and personal tribulations of Flemish Detective Van In makes its U.S. debut with this fun read. Containing its fair share of mayhem and intrigue but with little blood spilled, the novel maintains a fast pace, a light touch, and a joy in the telling. Highly recommended for mystery lovers of all types and ages.—Jennifer Rogers, J. Sargeant Reynolds Comm. Coll. Lib., Richmond, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Belgian crime-fiction veteran Aspe's English-language debut thriller, originally published in Europe in 1995, introduces readers to chain-smoking, perpetually out-of-sorts DI Pieter Van In. With a quirky character that is equal parts Simenon and Tati, this lighthearted novel has a decidedly European sensibility, but why it has taken so long for the series to reach U.S. shores is a mystery. In this installment, Van In investigates an odd jewelry store break-in in atmospheric Bruges. The gems were not stolen, but left melted down in acid. The wealthy and politically influential owner, Degroof, is less concerned about solving the case than preventing word about the crime from getting out. Van In quickly determines it was an act of revenge for something that happened years ago. Uneasily teamed with the beautiful prosecutor Hannelore Martins, who is charmed by his quirks and impressed by his deductive talents, Van In must cut through bureaucratic resistance to learn why one of Degroof's daughters has been institutionalized and another is in a nunnery--and why the jeweler's grandson has been kidnapped. Solving the crimes involves deciphering Latin word squares that are left with family members. While the breezy bantering of Van In and Hannelore, and their slowly developing romantic attraction, carry the book, Aspe satisfies the demands of a good mystery with his clever plotting and brisk pacing. The book is stocked with lively characters on both sides of the law, including a bad guy forced to impersonate a priest. For those who discovered the Belgian city depicted here in the 2008 film In Bruges, this book will be a welcome return--with plenty more to come via translations of more Van In books, one hopes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781453239742
  • Publisher: Open Road Media
  • Publication date: 6/4/2013
  • Series: Pieter Van In Series , #1
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 82,855
  • File size: 609 KB

Meet the Author

Pieter Aspe is the author of a multi-volume detective series starring Inspector Van In. The Square of Revenge is the first novel to be translated into English.
 Aspe lives in Bruges, Belgium, and is one of the most popular contemporary writers in the Flemish language. His novels have now sold over one million copies in Europe alone. 
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The Square of Revenge is the first novel in the Van In mystery s

    The Square of Revenge is the first novel in the Van In mystery series by Dutch author Pieter Aspe.  Since I was not familiar with the author, I looked him up to see what other books he had written, there was a long list, most of them not in English. This leads me to believe that he is an established author trying to break into the US market.  

    The premise for the book sounds intriguing.  A wealthy jeweler has his store broken into.  Instead of stealing anything the burglars dissolve his entire inventory in aqua regia, a substance that supposedly can melt even gold.  In addition, they leave behind a scrap of paper upon which is written four words in the situated in the form of a square.  Why would the burglars vandalize the shop, but not take anything?  What is the significance, if any, of the square of words. To Detective Van In and DA Hannelore Martens this crime seems to be very personal.  

    When I decided to try The Square of Revenge, I wasn't sure what I would find.  From the synopsis, I thought this might be a "conspiracy mystery" book, similar to those of Dan Brown, Steve Berry, and Brad Meltzer, of which I am a big fan.  If not that, I was hoping for a good nordic noir mystery, based on the name of the author and the language that this book was originally released in.  In reality, though, this book did not fit into either of those categories.  It was more of a standard detective mystery in the style of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot books, or Nelson DeMille's John Corey series.   As such it was a good story with engaging characters and an interesting mystery.  For a number of the characters in the story I was not sure what their role was or why they were relevant until closer to the end.  I like this about mysteries as it keeps me guessing and that keeps me engaged.  I was a bit disappointed, though, that some of the connections hinted at in the beginning of the book were never really addressed, though.  In addition, there were several devices in the story that I felt the author could have given a bigger role, but which I cannot enumerate without giving things away.  It was unfortunate that some of these items were ones that I was most interested in at the beginning, they had such promise but turned out to be nothing, really. 

    I would still recommend this book for mystery buffs, but just be aware that it is a straight up mystery.  It is neither big on the suspense, nor would I call it a thriller.  As a mystery, though, it is an enjoyable and good read.  I intend to seek out other books in the series if I can find them in English.  I am interested to see how Van In and DA Martens progress and to learn more about their back stories. 

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 22, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This is Pieter Aspe¿s English-language debut novel, we are intro

    This is Pieter Aspe’s English-language debut novel, we are introduced to Commissioner Pieter Van In, of the Bruges Special Investigations Department. (There have apparently been several entries in the series.) What will turn out to be a case of greater magnitude than any other in his 20-year career begins inauspiciously enough, when Sgt. Guido Versavel comes upon what appears to be a theft in a jewelry store in an expensive shopping district in Bruges. (And he had just been thinking that there were “only three thousand, nine hundred seconds to go” before his shift was up.)

    On closer inspection, a baffling scenario presents itself: The alarm has been disabled, the safe has been broken into and all of its contents taken, but the jewels have been dissolved in jars of aqua regia, “acid” to the uninitiated. Only when the store’s owner is discovered to be the son of Ludovic Degroof, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the region is there a hint that there is more involved. Van In wonders: “Where do you begin when a case appears to have no suspects and no motive?”

    DI Van In is ultimately put in charge of the case, which takes on different proportions when other members of the DeGroof family are contacted and threatened. He is more than ably assisted by the beauteous Deputy Public Prosecutor Hannelore Martens, described by him thusly: “Even in jeans and a white blouse, she was capable of making Miss Belgium look like a spruced-up scarecrow.” Not a conventional “whodunit” (as the reader is given that information about one-third into the book), this more a question of “why,” and the answer to that is totally unexpected. Political implications play a huge role in the way the investigation is conducted. Ultimately it appears that the seeds of these events were sown many years before. Written with welcome doses of humor, this is a thoroughly entertaining novel, and is highly recommended.

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    Posted March 12, 2014

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