Books: Zen Cops

THE JAPANESE CORPSE by Janwillem van de Wetering Houghton Mifflin; 280 pages; $7.95

Agatha Christie said that if she had ever imagined, as a young woman, that she would spend 50 years writing thrillers, she would never have made Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple so old. Perhaps, but several of the elderly detectives prove to be the hardiest. The latest ancient to carry a series on his frail back is an Amsterdam police commissioner, or commissaris. He wears waistcoats and a watch chain; he has rheumatism, unfailing gaiety and humor, but no name. The Japanese Corpse is the fifth mystery he has...

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