Thursday, 21 July 2016

Outsider In Amsterdam by Janwillem van der Wetering

Outsider In Amsterdam by Janwillem van der Wetering
First published in 1975. Republished by Soho Press Inc, most recently in 2013.

One of my WorldReads from the Netherlands

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'On a quiet street in downtown Amsterdam, the founder of a new religious society/commune—a group that calls itself “Hindist” and mixes elements of various “Eastern” traditions—is found hanging from a ceiling beam. Detective-Adjutant Gripstra and Sergeant de Gier of the Amsterdam police are sent to investigate what looks like a simple suicide, but they are immediately suspicious of the circumstances.
This now-classic novel, first published in 1975, introduces Janwillem van de Wetering’s lovable Amsterdam cop duo of portly, worldly-wise Gripstra and handsome, contemplative de Gier. With its unvarnished depiction of the legacy of Dutch colonialism and the darker facets of Amsterdam’s free drug culture, this excellent procedural asks the question of whether a murder may ever be justly committed.'

Outsider In Amsterdam is very much a book of its time reflecting the chauvinistic attitudes of the 1970s to both gender and race. This frequently jarred my concentration on the story and took a conscious effort to overcome. Once I had done so however, the police procedural story was engaging and even elegant in its structure. Our sort-of-heroes, the policemen Grijpstra and de Gier are perfectly real characters with eminently believable flaws and prejudices - these, sadly, can't be as easily dismissed as historic! Van der Wetering worked as a policeman in Amsterdam and his experience shines through the text. I was also reminded of the realism and mundane detail of Sjowall and Wahloo's Martin Beck series. Outsider In Amsterdam was first published just a few years after those books and I wondered if they were an influence.

I enjoyed van der Wetering's portrayal of Amsterdam, its inhabitants and the social problems within the city. Much of the patronising post-colonial attitude was familiar to me from similar British history and Papuan van Meteren's calm dignity provided a powerful contrast to this. The plot line is sufficiently complex to be engrossing and has a satisfying conclusion, albeit perhaps a little overdramatic. I had to remind myself that the now-familiar police procedural novel structure perhaps wasn't so well-used back in the 1970s so occasional cliches would have become so since Outsider In Amsterdam was written. I can see why the book is considered a classic of its genre and would certainly recommend it to crime and mystery novel fans.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Janwillem van der Wetering / Crime fiction / Books from The Netherlands

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