It’s been a while since I read my last Dutch-set crime novel, which most likely would have been an old Van der Valk in the form of a tattered old Penguin paperback (note to self, dust off the old Nicholas Freelings). My visit this time came courtesy of a new detective on the scene, a cold case worker called Lotte Meerman. I’m very pleased to have made her acquaintance and I hope we get to meet up again at some point in the future.
In A Cold Death In Amsterdam (US) Meerman has become something of a celebrity on account of her solving an old investigation of a missing girl. Her growing status hasn’t done her any favours, however. For complex and personal reasons, she is hiding the truth about the way she came about her information. She is also haunted by her findings as it reminds her of her own brief time as a mother.
We meet her driving through the snow in the middle of a restless night. She stumbles into an armed robbery, the consequences of which lead her into another murder inquiry from the past. This time, her work will be complicated because her father worked the initial investigation and appears to have a rather large secret to hide. It’s not long before it becomes impossible for her to hold all the threads together and her own unravelling is accelerated.
Her relationship with her estranged parents is explored and tested throughout. This personal journey is very nicely handled and the unfolding of the detail and history is nicely paced.
As the central focus of the book, she couldn’t be stronger.
The physical setting here is also pleasing. Holland offers a great landscape that is more than just a backdrop for the story. The book also allows some insight into the internal workings of the psyche of a particular strata of Dutch society – lurking shadows, rational application, a sense of the desire to protect privacy and the ways lies are told without completely destroying the truth.
If there’s a slight flaw to this one, I’d mention the financial aspects of the new case. As the murder was related to a big investment company this has to be dealt with, but at times its narrative detracts from what is otherwise a steadily building tension and nicely handled drama.
Overall, a very enjoyable read. Anja de Jager’s creation offers fresh and fertile pastures for those looking for a new detective to follow, especially if an interesting continental clime is appreciated.