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Monday 8 December 2014

‘The House of Dolls’ by David Hewson

Published by Macmillan,
10 April 2014.

This author was responsible for the novelisation of the TV series The Killing, so knows how to produce a good story, which this is.  Pieter Vos is an interesting, at first glance just another policeman with issues, but in fact a great deal more than that.  Three years ago his daughter went missing and he blames himself for not finding out what happened to her. Now another girl has gone missing in somewhat similar circumstances and Vos, along with his new sidekick, Laura Bakker, is involved in trying to discover what happened to her. At the same time, Theo Jansen, an ageing, old-time gangster and criminal overlord of Amsterdam is released from prison.

I found Bakker a most original police officer, an awkward girl from the Dutch provinces but with a great flair for investigation, and I look forward to reading more about her.  The various policemen are nicely drawn and well-differentiated, as are the criminals.  There is something deliciously comic about the way Jansen mourns the passing of the old-school criminals who had a certain moral code about them. 

Hewson's Amsterdam setting is vibrantly drawn, as is the canal area where Vos keeps his dilapidated houseboat.  I think this is the first crime novel I've read where the main protagonist and his subordinate go about their business on bicycles.  Although I found the writing style somewhat disconnected, and some of the characters and situations are 'stock', I would definitely recommend this book
Reviewer: Susan Moody

David Hewson was born in Yorkshire in 1953 and left school at the age of seventeen to work as a cub reporter on one of the smallest evening newspapers in the country in Scarborough. Eight years later he was a staff reporter on The Times in London, covering news, business and latterly working as arts correspondent. He worked on the launch of the Independent and was a weekly columnist for the Sunday Times for a decade before giving up journalism entirely in 2005 to focus on writing fiction. His novels have been translated into a wide range of languages, from Italian to Japanese, and his debut work, Semana Santa, set in Holy Week Spain, was filmed with Mira Sorvino and Olivier Martinez. Semana Santa won the WH Smith Fresh Talent award for one of the best debut novels of the year in 1996.and was later made into a movie starring Mira Sorvino. Four standalone works followed before A Season for the Dead, the first in a series set in Italy. He has featured regularly on the speaker lists of leading international book events, including the Melbourne and Ottawa writers' festivals, the Harrogate Crime Festival, Thrillerfest, Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime. He has taught at writing schools around the world and is a regular faculty member for the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference in Corte Madera, California, where he has worked alongside writers such as Martin Cruz Smith and Michael Connelly.

Susan Moody was born and brought up in Oxford.  She has published over 30 crime and suspense novels, including the Penny Wanawake series and the Cassandra Swann bridge series.  She is a past Chairman of the British Crime Writers' Association, a member of the Detection Club, a past Writer-in-Residence at the University of Tasmania and a past President of the International Association of Crime Writers.  She divides her time between south-west France and south-east Kent.   Nominated for the CWA short story award.  Nominated for the RNA's award. 

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