Amsterdam Writing

Little Sister, the third Pieter Vos novel

I like to make each book in a series different to the ones that come before and this is no exception. The first two Vos novels have been very much city affairs based in Amsterdam. With Little Sister we travel outside, not far but to an area so removed from the bustle and grime of the city it’s hard to believe sometimes you’re only forty or so minutes away by bus.

The area’s called Waterland and, while I portray some dastardly fictional deeds there, it is, in real life, delightful. Set by what was once an extension of the North Sea, now dammed, it’s a collection of pretty fishing villages and delightful rural vistas, a place of cheese farms and eel smokeries and enough bike rides to cover a whole summer of holidays. One place you’ll have heard of… Edam, a smart little town famous for the cheese.

Pieter Vos, very much a creation of the city, is hopelessly out of place out here. Laura Bakker, his sidekick, a country creature at heart, is, for once, very much at home, and plays a large part in this story.

The tale begins with two sisters, Kim and Mia Timmers, who’ve spent a decade in an institution for disturbed juveniles on the island of Marken. Their family lived in Volendam, a bigger fishing village across the water, where, in a tragedy that was never solved, their parents and sister were murdered. That was ten years before and now Mia and Kim, who were thought to have killed the man they deemed responsible, are about to be released. On the way to a halfway house in Amsterdam they vanish along with their nurse. Soon Vos is dragged into a case long thought dead as it becomes apparent that someone — perhaps the sisters, perhaps someone else — is endeavouring to get to the bottom of what happened ten years before.

I always want a subterranean theme alongside the mystery. In this case it’s to do with guilt. Whatever happened in Volendam people knew about it, some of them, Vos begins to suspect, very close to him in the police. For reasons he needs to understand they acquiesced, turned a blind eye or perhaps even actively covered up what was going on. Comprehending why that happened becomes as important to him and Laura Bakker as unravelling the original mystery itself. The nearer the two of them get to the answers, the more they realise they’re unlocking grim secrets that come very close to someone they know and respect among their colleagues.

Next year’s Vos story is already written… and once again it’s very different. In the meantime I hope you enjoy this one… and if you find yourself in Amsterdam do consider a trip out to Waterland. You can rent a bike and cycle there directly from close to where the free ferry to North Amsterdam stops outside Centraal Station. Or go by bus — ten euros will buy you a day ticket valid throughout the area departing from Centraal Station regularly. During the summer there’s a charming ferry service from Marken to Volendam too — highly recommended.

Here are a few of my research photos of the area taken when I was working on the book.