Thursday, August 27, 2009

Outsider in Amsterdam by Janwillem van de Wetering

Title: Outsider in Amsterdam
Author: Janwillem van de Wetering
ISBN: 1569470170, Soho Crime, 2003
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 Grijpstra & de Gier mystery
Rating: B-

First Line: The Volkswagen was parked on the wide sidewalk of the Haarlemmer Houttuinen, opposite number 5, and it was parked the way it shouldn't be parked.

Piet Verboom is found hanging from a beam in his sixteenth-century gabled house on a quiet narrow street in Amsterdam. Verboom was the leader of something called the Hindist Society, and the house contains a shop, a bar and a restaurant. His staff were followers in the society and were paid nothing. Verboom was turning a tidy little profit and had quite the lifestyle for himself. Why would he throw a rope over a beam and hang himself? The two Dutch policemen assigned to the case, Adjutant Grijpstra and Sergeant de Gier, don't think he did. Fortunately a person renting space in the house, Jan Karel van Meteren, is very observant and very helpful. With van Meteren's aid, hopefully they will solve the case without putting too many miles on their Volkswagen:

"This road doesn't go to Aerdenhout," said Grijpstra.

"Ah yes. We'll take a turning to the left."

"There are no turnings on the left on this road."

"Then we'll turn around," de Gier said happily.

"You should watch where you're going."

"So should you."

They found the right road, they found Aerdenhout, but they didn't find the mental home. Eventually they found the police station and were shown the right way.

"If the civilians knew how silly their police are they would commit more crimes," Grijpstra said.

Originally published in 1975, Outsider in Amsterdam really didn't feel dated to me, although I do have to admit that my cell phone is seldom turned on which probably doesn't make me the best of judges. The pacing of the book seemed a bit ponderous, and it was difficult to pinpoint the reason. Van de Wetering lived in Maine for many years, so blaming a translator isn't feasible. Possibly the slowness could just be a case of an author thinking in one language and writing in another. Most readers can only dream of having a problem like this.

Whatever the cause, the slowness was only a minor annoyance because the author serves up a veritable feast: the city and culture of Amsterdam itself, two wonderful characters in Grijpstra and de Gier, and a likable villain. In this book, it's not so much a matter of "who" done it, but "how" he did it... and is he going to get away with it? Lately I've been reading of too many bad guys for whom I've only felt disgust. It was fun to read about one I came very close to admiring.

Outsider in Amsterdam is a good start to the adventures of Grijpstra and de Gier. I intend to follow the series to its end.


  1. I could go for a book that is a veritable feast. I like books that take me places and I've never been to Amsterdam. I may have to go here.

  2. Love the cover and the possibility of a new-to-me series!

  3. Margot-- That's one of the reasons why I chose this book, too. I've never been to Amsterdam. Once I got used to the ponderous style, I really enjoyed it.

    Jenclair-- Isn't it amazing how the phrase "new-to-me series" can get readers all fired up? LOL

    Vivienne-- I do, too. It put me right in Amsterdam.

  4. I'm like Margot - I love it when a book (especially when it's a mystery - that's like a two-for special!) takes me to a new place and exposes me to the culture and sights. This one sounds good.

  5. "...although I do have to admit that my cell phone is seldom turned on which probably doesn't make me the best of judges."

    I hear you on this one! My phone's never on either.

  6. I have walked by Van de Wetering several times in the library. And after this review I am not sure I find it easier to make up my mind. Amsterdam and the old barn sound tempting, though.

    So let us see what happens next time I see one of his books on the shelf. At least I can try him out for free.

  7. Belle-- That's exactly what mysteries like this are: two-fers!

    Stacy-- I got it for when *I* want to make an emergency call, and that's it!

    Dorte-- It's a good idea to try him out for free. That's roughly what I did, too, since I got the book through Paperback Swap.


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