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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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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.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 September 2015
I really liked Mr Hewson's Nic Costa series so I thought I'd try this new series. The House Of Dolls is a police procedural set in Amsterdam, the Venice of the North, so a small Italian connection but that's it for similarities between the two series. Pieter Vos retired from the police with burnout 3 years before current events when he failed to find out what happened to his daughter, Annaliese who suddenly disappeared. He suspects she was kidnapped and killed because he was sent a porcelain doll with Annaliese's blood and hair on it. Now Katja Prins has disappeared and a doll has been left. De Groot, Vos's former boss, wants him on the case as does his ex partner, Eliesabeth, who is now Katja's stepmother. Please keep up because it starts to get complicated after this with more bodies, politics, blackmail, corruption and gang warfare to name a few twists.
I liked The House Of Dolls. It is a good, interesting read with plenty going on and I admire Mr Hewson's skill in weaving it all together into a logical narrative but I found it a bit disengaged in that I couldn't fully identify with the main characters and live the plot with them (my definition of a 5 star read). I think this may be down to the style of writing which keeps switching the narrative point of view but this is my only gripe. I liked the setting, Amsterdam comes alive in this book. I liked the plot which is properly grown up with a host of characters, motivations and connections and needs concentration but it is the realistic characterisation and dialogue where Mr Hewson really shines. Pieter Vos is a broken man. He was a superstar policeman and he couldn't find his own daughter, now all he wants to do is fritter his life away drinking beer, fixing his almost derelict houseboat and smoke a little weed so it is with great reluctance that he agrees to look at the disappearance of Katja Prins but gradually he gets drawn in. You can sense his ambivalence throughout the book. His sidekick is Laura Bakker, a young "aspirant", which I think means trainee on trial, given the frequent references to her not being kept on next week. She doesn't fit in, being young, female, naive, badly dressed, clumsy and worst of all from Friesland but, as in all the best novels, she becomes accepted - it's nice to see her develop but not too far, leaving scope for more in future novels. Intertwined with these 2 characters are various policemen, authentically drawn, dodgy politicians who may or may not be authentically drawn as I don't know but certainly fit my prejudices about them, Vos's ex partner whom I found unlikeable but realistic and Theo the gangster whom I found fascinating. I think he might be a bit of a cliche - ageing gangster with his own twisted morality who has lost his territory and grip whilst in prison and who reacts to adversity with violence - but if so it is a well drawn cliche.
This is a well written novel and I don't hesitate to recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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on 10 August 2015
Really enjoyed this book. I was a bit doubtful as the last book by David Hewson I had I didn't finish, that was The Killing, just didn't like it at all. This book though was really good, also for the first time I bought the Audible book at the same time and that was a great way of reading.
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on 26 February 2015
Absolutely fantastic. A very atmospheric Amsterdam, villains cut from real flesh, a to-die-for detective the likes of which we rarely come across, and a central mystery that grabs you by the throat. My only criticism is that I couldn't find any other Vos novels. He's too good a character to drop, so please David Hewson, could we have another one?
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VINE VOICEon 18 March 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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on 20 August 2014
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.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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!
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