Monday, September 21, 2015

The Hague by Candida Martinelli

Opening Paragraph: The ninety-year old Dutch dairy-farmer was small scale compared to just about every other dairy-farmer he knew. His cows were more like his children, so the villagers said, his hobby. Each dawn he would ride his bicycle along the raised pounded-earth path dotted with broken bricks he'd acumulated over the years, to visit his ladies, as he called them.

Book Synopsis:  An Italian with Europol deals with crime and women. For fans of European crime fiction, especially A.C. Baantjer's Inspector DeKok series. And for fans of cozy mysteries, who enjoy clean mysteries with light romance, a Rom-Crime novel. Europol Intelligence Officer Tony Sampaoli weaves together solutions to European crime puzzles with the help of four law enforcement friends and a consulting psychologist-graphologist, in this novel set in The Hague, in The Netherlands. In The Hague, Italian Tony takes on ripped-from-the-headlines cases set in Europe in the year 2000, while working to unify European Union policing practices. Europol, The European Police Office, an agency of the European Union, is based in The Hague in The Netherlands. Contrary to popular-culture representations, Europol is not a police force like the F.B.I. that can conduct investigations and arrest suspects. Europol is a bureaucratic entity, that collects data and offers training, while it assists with cooperation between police forces. Tony is bored by his paper-pushing, meeting-chairing, training-coordinating job. He relies on his law enforcement friends to provide him with interesting crime puzzles to keep his investigative skills honed, and to keep him sane. Cases such as these: a body mysteriously appears in the middle of a milk cow paddock, another body is found in a cement mixer, four students and their sailboat disappear sailing from Holland to England, and an American professor dies at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. Psychologist-graphologist Jennifer Eastman uses the study and practice of handwriting as a therapy tool, graphotherapy, to help troubled children. She also works as a graphologist, a handwriting analyst, with clients in business and law enforcement, a common practice in many European countries. One of her clients is Tony Sampaoli, a man who has captured her interest from day one. Tony's friends don't need a psychological report to know that Tony Sampaoli has a problem with women. Despite his interest in Jennifer since day one, he's yet to make a move, even when the opportunities are dropped in his lap. While Tony works to weave together solutions to the criminal cases, his friends work to help Tony weave together his damaged love-life. Clean fiction: no vulgarity, no explicit sex, no in-scene violence.


I'm usually a historical fiction purist, but having worked in a law enforcement background most of my life, I couldn't resist reading this novel about EuroPol, an international police agency that somewhat reminded me of InterPol. I especially enjoyed the fact that the story is a cozy murder mystery, written realistically and believably, a psychological thriller without the need for graphic gore and violence. 

The story opens in The Hague with two romantically entwined protaganists Tony Sampaoli and Jennifer Eastman who are thrust together to investigate a rash of unusual murders.  Author Candida Martinelli has a strong grip on her research, and presents diplomatic and national problems and red tape between the involved countries in a forthright, accurate manner. Yes, there are plenty of complications in the investigations the two protaganists are involved in, but Candida knows how to delve deep into their heads and reveal their motives and thoughts. Neither of these main characters are perfect. They come with plenty of baggage, but they come across as likeable. For me, this novel had it all, intrigue, mystery, and a strong romance that ran steadily through the background. I loved this story and have a great admiration for the level of knowledge and research the author demonstrated in her writing! Brilliant!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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