5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good story and characterisation but less than appealing prose
It appears that this is the first in a (planned) crime fiction series based in Amsterdam and featuring Detective Pieter Vos together with his rookie partner Laura Bakker. In this launch/pilot episode, a teenage girl and daughter of a leading city politician Wim Prins has gone missing. Vos has been living alone on a houseboat for a couple of years since retiring from the...
Published 13 months ago by O E J
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard work
Have really struggled to get into or line this book. I was hoping for much from the writer of "The Killing", but this has really disappointed. I'm still only 75% through it but hardly imagine that the last 25% will be do brilliant as to change my mind.
Published 9 months ago by Paul S
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good story and characterisation but less than appealing prose,
It appears that this is the first in a (planned) crime fiction series based in Amsterdam and featuring Detective Pieter Vos together with his rookie partner Laura Bakker. In this launch/pilot episode, a teenage girl and daughter of a leading city politician Wim Prins has gone missing. Vos has been living alone on a houseboat for a couple of years since retiring from the police force after failing to find his own daughter who disappeared under similar circumstances. Now the police chief appeals to Vos to help find Katja Prins. There are several other characters in the tale, including former 'don' and crime kingpin Theo Jansen, who has been in prison for such a long time that a former underworld rival has taken over most of his territory. There are horny ball-busting female politicians, ex-wives with big secrets, and all manner of corruption within both the law-enforcement and political powerbrokers. The story spans only a few days but dead bodies turn up quite regularly, and not always as a result of murder.
One of the underlying threads just beneath the surface of the story is an emotionally-scarred cop who has turned his back on the force (or maybe simply retired) and has no intention of returning. That's a rather well-worn premise, seen from authors such as Jo Nesbo, Mo Hayder, Ian Rankin and Simon Kernick to name but a few. Where House of Dolls is a cut above the rest in this particular regard is that Pieter Vos does not drop everything before the end of Chapter One and put his helmet back on. In this tale, he really is reluctant to go back and his apathy remains pretty much a constant throughout; if not for a personal involvement in the investigation he might not have gone back at all, even though he's barely 40 years old. So I liked the fact that his character was drawn the way it was from the outset and the author stuck to it; the somewhat familiar concept of a 'former ace detective' being invited back on the force did not, thankfully, fall victim to stereotype here.
And the story itself holds the attention at all times, not least because a lot happens within just the few days that span the pages of the tale. Vos' new sidekick Laura Bakker, for example, is another who might have fallen victim to stereotype but very clearly does not. The monkey on her back is being from 'up north' and not a metropolitan type like her hardened colleagues at Marnixstraat police station; she has an uphill task in proving her readiness and entitlement to work the big crimes in the big city, and fight off derisory remarks about the kinds of crime she used to deal with out in the sticks. Hers was another well-drawn character.
It's a very 'talky' novel, with not a great deal of narrative, and my main gripe is that the style of writing in that narrative is chopped short in what feels like a deliberately stylised way but which ends up being more of a distraction than of benefit. 1940s crime noir writers such as James Ellroy had it nailed, but Hewson hasn't quite got the method right here. Sentences are chopped in half or have no beginning, but when the prose switches to dialogue this style all but disappears, so that in a way there are two styles of writing throughout, flicking from one to the other, which I found a slight nuisance.
But I liked it, it wasn't a predictable story (with one very obvious exception) and the character-building kept it alive. It almost felt like a book based on a TV series (as Hewson did with The Killing) but as far as I know House of Dolls is an original piece of work. It quickly gave me the impression that it could be easily converted to the screen, such was its screenplay-like imagery.
I'm not sure I'll get the second in the series, assuming there is one, but I might be tempted. I just hope Hewson changes the prose a bit next time around.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Novel set in Amsterdam (Poppen Huis),
In order to get a really authentic feel of Amsterdam, the author explored, and spent time in, Jordaan - a run down formerly working class district, where Pieter Vos (the key character of the drama) lives on a dilapidated houseboat with his fox terrier, Sam, for company. [Sam, incidentally, breaks a rule of Hewson's - never model a character on a real 'person' - Sam is modelled on his own fox terrier, Eddie... to whom the books is dedicated]. He experienced the rest of the city. Location is important to the book. In the edition I read, there is a map of Amsterdam with the key locations that feature in the book marked on it – and on Hewson’s website there is a much larger interactive map to play with. You really get the impression that he wants you to be a part of the place.
The book is an absolute cracker – combining (as did The Killing) both crime and political intrigue. It is stated to be the first in the Pieter Vos series, and the others are clearly going to be well worth waiting for. Pieter, an ex crime buster with the Amsterdam police force, ‘retired’ a few years back to live on his houseboat – shaken by the kidnapping, and apparent murder, of his own daughter… and by his frustration at being unable to solve the case. He is tracked down in the Rijksmuseum by Laura Bakker, a young trainee detective, who reports a copycat disappearance of Katja Prins – the daughter of Wim Prins, the leader of the city council… and key architect of a plan to crack down on the activities of De Wallen, the red light district. Pieter is brought back into the police (not to the joy of all…) to help solve Katja’s disappearance – a disappearance which her father believes may be a hoax to extract money from him (Katja is an addict with a history of scams). Added piquancy is brought by the fact that Wim’s current wife is also Pieter’s ex partner – and the mother of his missing daughter. The relationship between Pieter and Laura (she is a quite difficult foil…) is one of the highlights of the book. She is bright, but a little inexperienced in the ways of the big city – heading, as she does, from Friesland in the north of the Netherlands… and is thought of by many of her colleagues as a bit of a country bumpkin.
Theo Jansen completes the list of main characters. He is a gangland boss, just out of jail. His daughter (who ran the business while he was inside) has also been murdered. He takes revenge on the boss of a rival Surinamese gang - only to then have doubts. He and Pieter go way back to when they were sparring partners on the streets. The solving of their varying mysteries overlaps – and complete the personal, the political, and the gangland nature of The House of Dolls.
Ah yes, The House of Dolls. When Laura first encountered Pieter, he was – as he often was – sitting in the Rijksmuseum in front of The Dolls House by Petronella Oortman convinced that it has something to do with the disappearance of his daughter. Which it has. The House of Dolls was not a pleasant place…
All in all The House of Dolls is a quite excellent read that really brings Amsterdam to life. The atmospherics ring true, and the plot is fast moving, bizarre, and yet somehow believable. I absolutely recommend it, and look forward very much to the next tale in the series.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Dutch thriller, set in Amsterdam,
The House of Dolls – David Hewson
David Hewson is a well known and respected author (“The Killing”), and this new book will simply add to his growing list of successes.
Unlike ‘The Killing’, this particular story is set in Amsterdam, and if you’re familiar with the city, the names of the streets makes it even more believable.
Pieter Vos was a very accomplished Detective with the Police in Amsterdam. But three years ago, his only daughter disappeared. Despite all the effort in investigating the disappearance, no clues, no trace, no body. VOS went off the rails, and resigned. For the next few years, he lived on a boat on the canal with his dog, Sam. He drank, smoked too much, and became quite dishevelled. His partner, who had refused to marry him, left and she later married a politician.
A girl, similar age to Vos’ own daughter has disappeared. Vos is contacted as the local Police want him to be involved in the investigation. They send a complete ‘misfit’ Police Officer to persuade him to return to work. Laura Bakker, is the Police Officer, who is about to be dismissed due to her lack of ability. She is a misfit, because of the way she dresses, her accent (she’s from the north of the country) and generally, no one likes her.
Vos, is persuaded to return to the Police – but just for the day.
The local leader of the criminal gang, is due to be released from prison (Theo Janssen). However, the day of his release, Vos has a meeting with him, and just as they are parting company, an assassination attempt takes place, and Janssen survives.
Janssen is returned to prison for his own safety, even though he is furious at this decision. He believes he will be absolutely fine in his city that he controls.
But he doesn’t control it anymore. He’s been in prison for two years.
The following day, Janssen’s daughter - Rosie - (who he adores) is murdered, and her body is placed near the boat where Vos lives. Eventually Vos does return to the Police and takes Bakker under his wing. Together, they start to investigate the disappearance of another girl, but Janssen is unhappy – he wants Vos to investigate the murder of his daughter. Even though Janssen is the top criminal in Amsterdam, he has faith in Vos’ ability to discover the truth. Vos is too busy to investigate the murder, but does keep in contact with Janssen.
And this is just the beginning.
There are so many twists and turns in this story. Crime, politics, sex, murder, abduction, are all intertwined in this. After the initial 20-30 pages, the story really develops in a powerful web of crime – and some of those criminals may be colleagues within the Police.
A superb book – very well written, and as the plot deepens and widens, so the interest does too. Lovely short chapters, which allows the reader to read for a short time, and then pick the book up again.
Excellent. Well worth reading.
5.0 out of 5 stars Going Dutch,
Pieter Vos is a former Amsterdam detective. He retired three years after being unable to find his missing teenage daughter. Now, the daughter of the leader of the city council has also disappeared in similar circumstances and Vos is asked to return and help with the case. Reluctantly agreeing, the task is made harder when a local gangster's daughter is found murdered by Vos' houseboat. Thinking his rival was responsible, this gangster sets out to make his adversary pay for what he did. Trouble is, he wasn't responsible and when the body of a reporter turns up, things start to get involved. What's going on?
With a time frame is spread over four days - and an epilogue taking place nine days later - this has been penned by David Hewson, the author behind `The Killing' and `The Killing II', and is a fine novel that takes a similar path to those two books in that there are missing people, politicians who only care about themselves even when it's their own flesh and blood, a main protagonist whose love life was a mess, dead bodies, and a rookie copper tasked with assisting the main character. With his background in turning screenplays into novels, this one also reads like that, what with short, sharp chapters, something which I prefer.
I quite like Vos, who comes across not only as sad (as anyone would if your daughter has been missing for three years) but you can imagine him having a hang dog expression and sighing loudly when he knows he's better than all the other detectives. Bakker, his side kick, is someone who knows she can do the job but no-one has neither trusted her nor given her a chance until now, which is why she's been handing out parking tickets and is going to be dismissed within days. She has a thing or two to prove. Even though the gangsters aren't people you would want to know, they don't hide behind anything, which is why it's the politicians who come over as the nastiest; lying, cheating, thieving and deceitful would be too kind, but I guess that's politics the world over.
There's enough intrigue to make you wonder who might be responsible and why, even though you may have dismissed certain characters' involvement as preposterous (stranger things have occurred in the crime/mystery/thriller genre). And that's the sign of a good read; one that keeps you guessing and slapping yourself for not realising earlier. The conclusion also hides a minor surprise.
Whilst not being the most original of narratives (and is any book nowadays really original), it's the way it's written and how the word pictures give a powerful impression that places this on the top step in the genre. Hewson has done it again.
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good crime novel,
I enjoyed this book. I tried it because David Hewson was entrusted with writing the novels of the three TV series of The Killing and, while this wasn't as good as those excellent series, it turned out to be a well written and engaging police thriller.
In many ways this seems like a Killing clone to begin with: a missing teenager; a troubled ex-detective reluctantly drawn back into police work; political shennanigins in a fragile coalition and so on. It is also, to be honest, fairly well laced with clichés of the genre: the troubled ex-policeman brought back...etc (who also has a tragic personal involvement); the awkward, misfit partner; an arrogant colleague; political pressure on the investigation; a boss who wants the case closed but the detective Still Has Doubts...and so on. There is even a Stand-Off With A Killer climax. However, David Hewson writes very well and a handles all of this with real skill, so that it never felt tired or stale to me. I thought the characters very well-drawn, the story was involving and he generates a good sense of place in Amsterdam.
The book even has a quiet brilliance about it in places, I thought. For example, there is a little scene, just three pages long in which Bakker (the awkward new recruit) and Koeman (a minor character among the detectives) are talking in the canteen which seemed an utterly genuine exchange between two real people and which I found rather touching. Quite a lot of this underlies the book and lifts it well above the ordinary, I think.
This isn't fabuously original or any kind of literary masterpiece, but it's well plotted with a gripping story and has convincing characters and a good sense of place. I became very involved and will certainly look out for more books featuring Vos and Bakker. Recommended to anyone who likes a good crime novel.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More European Crime - Amsterdam this time,
There is no sign of the Euro-crime band wagon slowing down and this new novel by David Hewson (who wrote the novels based on the acclaimed TV series "The Killing" is clearly along for the ride. A retired police officer is persuaded to come out of his retirement to investigate the disappearance of a young girl which has echoes of the loss of his own daughter some years before. It's a twisty tale with an interesting European backdrop. Hewson is a reliable story teller, and this is a diverting read if you haven't by now read enough Euro-crime to last a lifetime!
5.0 out of 5 stars House of Secrets,
David Hewson has moved his crime thrillers from Copenhagen to Amsterdam. After the novelisations of Sarah Lund he has now created Pieter Vos. Similar in some ways, but in many ways a cooler more cerebral detective, yet just as determined. Brought out of self imposed exile to investigate the disappearance of the teenage daughter of the Amsterdams council leader he is reluctant to get involved, especially given the similarities to his own daughters disappearence three years earlier. With a gang war looming, the council in disarray, the police at a loss after a failed major prosecution and saddled with a country girl no one wants as an assistant he is expected to fail, but no one else is as good at the job as him.
This is a many layered thriller, with the gangsters and drug lords often being more sympathetic, especially the character of Theo Jansen, than the police, and infinitely more honourable than the politicians. Named for a famous piece in the Rijkmuseum this is however an Amsterdam of drugs, prostitutes, guns and corruption that simmers below the surface in many large cities. In his investigation Vos meets and confronts his past and his demons.
Well constructed, and with many twists and turns on the way to the conclusion this is a great and intriguing tale.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read.,
I took this with me on a coach trip and it kept me interested and intrigued all the way there. I was almost tempted to stay on the coach and read instead of alighting with the rest of the party and 'doing the visit' we'd spent so long travelling to see. I resisted the temptation but was so pleased on the way home to be able to continue reading. There are parallels with other crime fiction but that does not detract from the twists and turns of the plot and the faiings/positive attributes of the main character.
Well worth a read.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Conventional and workmanlike.....,
The House of Dolls is a very readable and enjoyable police procedural crime novel. Pieter Vos has retired from his job as an Amsterdam detective following the disappearance of his daughter three years previously. He is haunted by the idea that some clue was missed and that somehow he has let her down. When the daughter of a local politician disappears in similar circumstances Pieter finds himself drawn back into the investigation. The plot moves along at a cracking pace and the descriptions of Amsterdam are vivid. Pieter is particularly perturbed by the way the criminal fraternity of the city is changing. The ordinary decent Amsterdam criminals followed a set code but the newer (often immigrant) gangsters are carving out their own unpredictable world.
David Hewson (who wrote the book version of The Killing) obviously has very good writing credentials. The words I would use to describe The House of Dolls are conventional and workmanlike. Because there is just so must of this type of literature around it is becoming increasingly difficult to produce something really fresh. It is a somewhat formulaic – there is a policeman with “issues”. He tends not to follow all the required protocol and has difficult relations with his ex-partner.
This feels as if it has been written with a TV series in mind. The chapters are short and read like scenes in a drama.
So, not especially original, but nonetheless a very entertaining read.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read from the ever reliable Hewson,
In 'The House of Dolls', ex-Amsterdam detective Peter Vos is living on an old houseboat and still haunted by the disappearance of his daughter three years previously. Now, an ex-colleague visits him and tells him a politicians' daughter has gone missing in similar circumstances. Suddenly Vos feels re-energised and up for the hunt.
Very few crime novelists are as reliable at capturing mood and pace as David Hewson who was hired to produce three novelisations of the TV series 'The Killing' for precisely this reason. So lay back and relax - you're in sure hands in this well-plotted, well-written crime thriller.
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