In a forgotten corner of a rain-lashed park in Amsterdam, the body of a tramp is found. The police can find no name nor any obvious cause of death. Only the scarring on his body suggests he is the latest victim of a serial killer terrorizing the city.
Detective Ronald van Hijn has just one lead: The phone number of a young Englishman. Jon Reed is summoned from London to identify the body and tell van Hijn what he can about the man he knew as Jake Colby. But Jon is determined to do much more for his mysterious friend.
Soon he's uncovering a horrific history of terror and mass murder rooted in Europe's murky past. And the killer is still on the loose.
Stav Sherez is a freelance journalist and music critic.
©2004 Stav Sherez (P)2013 Audible Ltd
“Impressive … a meditation on representations of violence decanted into a crime thriller” (Time Out)
“A gifted writer … deserves to be the thriller of the summer” (Economist)
“Ambitious, audacious, powerful” (Observer)
I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
There were aspects to this novel I liked very much, and one I did not like as much. It was a very good thriller/mystery, and provided the reader with many different characters to follow, while always making it easy to keep track of them. The plot moved at a good pace, and always kept my interest.
What I did not expect (as it's not part of the book's synopsis) is that the book is primarily focused on Nazis and the holocaust, with some pretty dark topics and scenes. Some of the things described (types of torture done to the Jews in the concentration camps) are very graphic and dark. Some of it was too much for me, and I wish it hadn't gotten as graphic as it did.
Overall, a good mystery/thriller, as long as you can stomach the topics regarding the holocaust.
"Ambitious and interesting read"
This is an ambitious work but perhaps too much. The story is somewhat contrived and at times stretches the suspension of disbelief to its limits. The connections which tie the protagonists together seem tenuos. However the force of the novel is in the questions it poses about identity and human nature. A literary man takes in a tramp to his house who then leaves and turns up dead in Amsterdam where a detective investigates his death. The deceased was brought up as an English gentleman but discovers late in life that he was the son of Jewish deportees. The main character is Jewish from a non-practising family. Meanwhile in Amsterdam a young American woman who is doing a doctorate on a Jewish artist belongs to a group whose main aims are to debate the impact of images and representations. This young woman meets the protagonist when he comes to Amsterdam to identify the body. The group has been infiltrated by a strange doctor. The focus of the characters is the Holocaust and here the author is very incisive and strong. He doesn't have a black and white attitude to the question - what happened to the Jews could have happened to another group of people but how far would you go to save your own skin? What does your sense of identity mean? There is also the investigation into cruelty - when do sexual games of bondage become unacceptable? Are they healthy? Running through the book is also the diary narrative of the Artist recounting her arrest at the hands of the Nazis. The Dutch detective's father had lived for many years as a so-called hero of the Dutch resistance to the Nazi occupation until he was exposed as a collaborator of the Nazis in later years. The detective has to reexamine his whole childhood and relationship to the kind father he knew in the light of these relevations.
Perhaps the classification of the book in the detective/crime section is inappropriate and this is why it doesn't work as a novel in this genre. Putting that aside the book is very well worth reading and the narrator does an excellent job.
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