Pieter Vos, the dark heart of Amsterdam

Crime in the city of canals and coffee shops

After finishing The Killing series David set up a temporary base in Amsterdam to investigate the idea of a new series set there, among the canals, the culture, the good and the bad of one of Europe’s most fascinating cities. The first in the series, The House of Dolls, was snapped up for development for Dutch TV even before publication. Unusually for a foreign writer, the books were also snapped up for almost simultaneous publication in Dutch by the Amsterdam publisher Boekerij.

cover225x225Like the Costa series, the books focus round a central character but they’re also an ensemble story, featuring the people around Vos, notably the young woman detective Laura Bakker, a stranger to Amsterdam from the provinces.

You can read about the background to the books, and download a free ebook about the real places they feature in Amsterdam here.

The House of Dolls (Book One)

House of Dolls

Pieter Vos, once a top gang-buster for the Amsterdam police, is sitting in the Rijksmuseum staring at a famous doll’s house when a young trainee detective, Laura Bakker, comes in and tries to persuade him to meet his old boss.

The daughter of Wim Prins, a leading city politician, has vanished in circumstances similar to the unsolved abduction of Vos’s own teenage girl. Frank de Groot, his old boss, wants him to take the case. Vos is living in a dilapidated houseboat in the district of Jordaan, with only a little dog for company. Out of work. Out of options. Out of the world.

Dark and atmospheric with breathless pacing.  Linwood Barclay

Across Amsterdam Wim Prins is in City Hall, working on his pet policy: a crackdown on the sex and drug trade. Outwardly a puritanical man, he’s come to office on a promise to clean up the city and intends to deliver. But he doesn’t believe his daughter’s disappearance is real. She’s a junkie who’s extorted money from him before. Prins’s wife isn’t so sure. And there’s a personal link here too. She was Vos’s partner for many years, mother of their missing daughter. The new case rings bells she doesn’t want to hear.

In the courthouse on the Prinsengracht the third strand of the story begins. Theo Jansen, a local gang lord, sent to prison on trumped-up charges, is appealing his conviction. The case that put him behind bars is collapsing. He’s intent on getting out of prison and going back into business.

Pieter Vos, Wim Prins and Theo Jansen… three Amsterdammers joined by a secret tied to an ancient doll’s house. A mystery that starts to wrap its sinister grip around them all. Can Vos recover enough of his life to find the missing girl? And if he does will he solve the riddle of his own vanished daughter?

The Wrong Girl (Book Two)

Wrong Girl

Amsterdam is bursting at the seams with children trying to get a glimpse of their hero and families enjoying the occasion. The police are out in force, struggling to manage the crowds on one of the busiest days of the year. Brigadier Pieter Vos is on duty with his young assistant, Laura Bakker, when the first grenade hits. As Sinterklaas prepares to address the crowds a terrorist outrage grips the heart of the city. In the chaos a young girl wearing a pink jacket is kidnapped.

But the abducted child isn’t the daughter of an Amsterdam aristocrat as the terrorists first thought. She’s the daughter of an impoverished Georgian prostitute, friendless and trapped in the web of vice that is Amsterdam’s Red Light District. As the security forces and the police clash over the ensuing investigation the perpetrator’s horrifying demands become clear.

Vos, trapped in a turf war with state intelligence, tries to unravel a conspiracy that reaches from the brothels of the city to the hierarchy of the security services. And at its heart lies an eight-year-old girl, snatched from a loving mother then ferried from one criminal lair to the next, her life in the balance as Vos and Laura Bakker struggle to uncover the shocking truth behind her abduction. What is the life of one immigrant child worth in the greater political game emerging around them?

Setting is always essential to Hewson and he evokes everything from scent to scenery. Here, he begins with a policewoman and a missing girl. She is attempting to engage Pieter Vos, once a Dutch detective, in discussing two crimes. One missing girl disappeared last week. The other, Vos’s daughter, Anneliese, has been missing for three years. Vos left the police and lives as a recluse on a houseboat, still searching for clues. Now, it may be possible to solve the case and reignite his life. You won’t put this one down. Toronto Globe & Mail

Little Sister (Book Three)

Little Sister

Kim and Mia Timmers were just eleven years old when their family was killed. The sisters were accused of murdering the lead singer of a world-famous pop band in the Dutch fishing village of Volendam, believing him to be responsible for their family’s deaths. The evidence seemed irrefutable at the time and the sisters were imprisoned in Marken, a local psychiatric institution. Now, ten years later, they are due for release.

Pieter Vos, a detective with the Amsterdam police, is given cause to re-open the case when the girls disappear along with the nurse responsible for escorting them to a halfway house. When the nurse’s corpse washes up on the beach at Marken, it becomes apparent that the institution holds the key to the investigation. And it seems that Vos’s boss, De Groot, has something to hide which is relevant to the case.

Then, the case takes an unexpected turn when it becomes clear that someone is posing as Little Jo – Kim and Mia’s other sister – who was supposedly murdered along with their parents ten years ago…

I cannot say with certainty that the places where David Hewson sets his novels are exactly as he describes them, but his depictions of Italy, Denmark and, here, the Netherlands do seem remarkably lifelike, as though he has lived in each of them for years… There is a lot of repetition and imitation in contemporary crime fiction and it is rare to find an author whose books seem entirely original. Hewson’s do. Literary Review