NOW THAT WE NO longer have Gideon, Martin Beck, Van der Valk, or Maigret - policemen who were individual human beings as well as sleuths - we can take comfort in the promise of some high-class police procedurals from such writers as Janwillem Van de Wetering and Peter Hill. Both use a detective pair, and part of the fascination is watching two men with diverse personalities working together and often entrusting their lives to each other.
The Blond Baboon (Houghton, Miffin, $7.95) is the fifth case (at least for American release) for those marvelously individual Dutch policemen, Grijpstra and de Gier. The body of Elaine Carnet, one-time chanteuse and wealthy furniture dealer, is found at the foot of her garden steps with a macabre grin on her face. A wedding ring, a broken wine glass, cigar butts, and the past provide leads to the solution of the crime. It's a good story but far more interesting are Grijpstra, the unhappily married man who relieves his frustrations by banging drums, and de Gier, the handsome young detective in denims who plays the flute and chooses Oliver, his cat, over a bedmate. They puzzle over human nature and life as well as crime.
Warning: For those who read Van de Wetering's The Japanese Corpse , released a few months ago in the United States, there are some moments of painful deja vu in The Blond Baboon , obviously written earlier. Also, for those who haven't yet caught up with Van de Wetering, the earlier Outsider in Amsterdam is now in paperback (Pocket Books, $1.95).
Peter Hill has suspense, character, a good puzzler, and, best of all, an unusual background to work with in The Liars (Houghton Mifflin, $6.95). And then, of course, there is the New Scotland Yard team of Chief Inspector Staunton and Inspector Wyndsor. They are assigned to investigate the murder of a Cornish fisherman found hanging by one foot from an ancient gibbet on a rocky coastal cliff. They must sort out the liars among the villagers, including Miss Trevose, a malevolent old cripple who manipulates events from her wheelchair. Staunton is a blunt cockney who can be crude and coarse if it will help trap a murderer. His relationship with Wyndsor, an Oxford graduate who charms women, is a study of how two men who share little can work well together as a detective team. Incidentally, this is the old British police procedural with sex as well as cerebral action (supplied by Wyndsor).