#247 ~ Outsider in Amsterdam ~ DATW

Welcome to Detectives Around the World week at The Literate Housewife Review! I want to thank Jen from Jen’s Book Thoughts for dreaming this theme week into life and inviting me and other book bloggers to participate.  The goal of this week is to highlight literary detectives from across the globe.  In addition to reading and reviewing a detective novel from a city, state, region, or country of your choice, participating bloggers will also be highlighting the book’s location as well.  I may not read these types of novels often, I jumped at the chance.

For up-to-the-minute Detectives Around the World coverage this week, click here.

When it came to deciding how to participate, I knew immediately I wanted to find something suitable set in the Netherlands, home of my ‘people.”  After doing a little research, I discovered Janwillem van de Wetering, the author of the Grijpstra & de Gier Mysteries.  There are total of 14 Grijpstra & de Gier novels written between 1975 and 1997.  van de Wetering, who spent time in the Amsterdam Special Constabulary as well as at a Zen Buddhist monastery, added insight from his own experiences to his detective fiction.  Interestingly, he wrote both the Dutch and in English.  I find it’s best to start at the beginning, so I chose Outsider in Amsterdam.  Today I am posting my review.

Please check back here on Thursday for some of my memories growing up in a proud Dutch family, my most embarrassing Dutch moment, and a look at Amsterdam today.

Outsider in Amsterdam by Janwillem van de Wetering

Published by: Houghton Mifflin / Soho Crime (reprint 2003)

Published on: 1975

Page Count: 213

Genre: Detective Fiction

My Reading Format: 1975 original hardcover on loan from library

Available Formats: paperback reprint

My Review

Grijpstra and de Gier are detectives in the Amsterdam Special Constabulary.  One afternoon they are called to the Hindist Society because Piet Verboom, the society’s proprietor, was found hanging in his room.  At first glance, it looks like a suicide.  Sergeant de Gier and Detective-Adjudant Grijpstra are determined to perform a complete investigation to ensure that justice is served.

As is probably true of all main characters in a series of novels, we do not learn all there is to know about our Amsterdam detectives.  It is clear from the beginning that Grijpstra and de Gier make a good team.  de Gier, the pair’s senior officer, is begrudgingly married with children and much more set in his ways.  Grijpstra is younger and practices Buddhism.  I wouldn’t necessarily consider them an odd couple, but their strengths complimented each other.Together they have a wealthy combination of experience and intuition to get the job done.  As I was finishing this novel I could see where van de Wetering could build on each of the characters and their relationship over the course of the series.  Assuming their cases would become more complex as well, watching them grow would make a good reading experience.

Outsider in Amsterdam is much different from most of the fiction I have read.  Not only is the setting out of the ordinary for me, but writing is as well.  Although the actual feelings are hard to describe, I feel as though I experienced a little of what it was like to live in Amsterdam during the 1970s.  If Grijpstra and de Gier tell us anything at all about their city and country, the Netherlands is a far cry from the America represented by our own 1970s  detectives Starsky and Hutch.  There aren’t any in high-speed car chases through the streets.  These detectives are as likely to walk to their next interview as drive.  Still, both sets of detectives have a way with words and that special knack that gets their case solved like no other.  What Outsider in Amsterdam lacks in speed and violence, it makes up for it in its deliberateness and culture.

There were aspects of Outsider in Amsterdam that felt out of my reach because of differences in culture or time.   I am quite certain that the verbal barbs traded between the two detectives or between the other characters went over my head entirely.  I think I would have enjoyed it more had I been able to feel part of what was happening.  That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the novel.  It was a very subtle read and was very much a creation of its time.  While I might opt for a more modern or most historic novel set in the Netherlands next time, I am sure that van de Wetering knew his generation well.  I can understand why there are so many Grijpstra and de Gier fans around the world.


Speaking of detective fans, the Championship round of Jen’s World’s Favorite Detective contest is now open for voting. Click here to cast your vote for either Harry Bosch or Phillip Marlowe.


  • At 2010.04.13 06:13, Jen Forbus said:

    Jennifer, you bring up a very interesting point on the timliness of a novel. Michael Connelly has often spoken on how some of his novels are already dated. That terms and concepts he used are obsolete. So, it would be interesting to see how people react to those same books 30 years from now.

    I’m also fascinated by your feeling of the culture from reading this. I love that when I can experience it in books. I see you have some Ariana Franklin in your mailbox and I always experience that when I read her books. Michael Stanley’s Detective Kubu is another one that is great about really expressing a feeling for the culture.

    Thank you for adding this to the theme week! I’m looking forward to reading about your Dutch experiences!

    • At 2010.04.13 08:07, Beth F said:

      I would be very interested in giving this series a try. I have been to the Netherlands (love it there!) and I’m old enough to remember the 70s, so I might really connect with this one.

      Have you read (not a mystery) Girl with the Pearl Earring? It takes place in Delft and I feel that it captured Delft wonderfully (a great place to visit if you get the chance).

      • At 2010.04.13 09:55, Kay said:

        I thank you so much for introducing me to a mystery series that I was not aware of. That is so lovely! This one is set in a place that I haven’t read about extensively. I love learning about the setting of the mysteries I read. I feel like a world traveller. Thank you, Jennifer, for the introduction and I’ll be checking this author out.

        • At 2010.04.13 11:15, Lisa said:

          Kudos to you for reading out of your comfort zone and for really stretching to find something completely new to read. Sounds like you found a good starting point for reading mysteries.

          • At 2010.04.13 15:09, Les Blatt said:

            Jennifer, two more notes about van de Wetering, who, I think, isn’t nearly as well known in the US as he should be – thanks for picking him!
            First, did you know that he wrote an earlier series – before the Grijpstra and de Gier books? They feature Police inspector Piet van der Valk. After several books, van de Wetering got tired of his character and killed him in mid-book. Unlike Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, van de Wetering never brought his character back.
            Second, did you know that van de Wetering also wrote an excellent biography and appreciation of Robert Van Gulik, the author of the Judge Dee mysteries? I quote from him in my post about Van Gulik and ancient China, which I’ll be putting up on my site tomorrow as part of the week’s festivities. It makes an interesting connection, I think.

            Read more from Les Blatt

            “Dancing Death,” by Christopher Bush

            An English country home? Check. A powerful blizzard that isolates that house and its residents? Check. A missing cylinder of deadly gas? Check. An unexpected house burglary? Check. Telephone wires cut[…]

            • At 2010.04.13 16:20, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

              I’m not crazy about car chases and violence, so this might be the perfect mystery for me.

              Read more from bermudaonion (Kathy)

              Mailbox Monday

              Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a meme started by Marcia and now hosted on its own blog.  I found these books in my mailbox last week: Monday GREEN by Sam Graham-Felsen came from Penguin Random House Tues[…]

              • At 2010.04.13 22:37, Jeanne said:

                Hi Jennifer,It’s so interesting to see people read books by authors that I read so long ago! Hope you pursue with him, even though it’s such a different style of writing than most of us are used to. I read the older series that Les mentioned, about Piet Van der Valk. Another European author you might like to try is Nicholas Freeling. Have you read anything by him? His mysteries are set in France and they are quite different from American/Canadian/British mysteries. The whole structure of their justice system is not the same as ours and they seem to approach the solving of crimes from quite a different angle. Very interesting but sometimes frustrating. Worth a read or two. I enjoy your reviews.

                • At 2010.04.13 22:59, Jennifer said:

                  Thanks to everyone for stopping by. I hope you would all give this series a try. If not just for something a little different.

                  Les, I did not know those things about the author and I’m looking forward to checking out your post tomorrow.

                  Isn’t this event wonderful? It’s a great idea and I’m enjoying reading about all of these different places.

                  • At 2010.04.14 14:37, nicole langan said:

                    Sounds like a good mystery, Thanks!

                    • At 2010.04.14 21:32, Les Blatt said:

                      Sigh. I was wrong – my memory failed me. It was, in fact, Nicholas Freeling who wrote the Inspector Van der Valk books (and killed him off). Janwillem van de Wetering DID write the Judge Dee appreciation I mentioned – but you will have to look to Freeling to find Inspector Van der Valk. My apologies!

                      Read more from Les Blatt

                      “Dancing Death,” by Christopher Bush

                      An English country home? Check. A powerful blizzard that isolates that house and its residents? Check. A missing cylinder of deadly gas? Check. An unexpected house burglary? Check. Telephone wires cut[…]

                      • […] Tuesday, I posted my review of the detective mystery I selected from the Netherlands, Outsider in Amsterdam.  Today I’m going to post about growing up in a Dutch family, my most embarrassing Dutch […]

                        • At 2010.04.15 22:26, Amber Stults said:

                          I’ve been putting off reading the final book “The Perfidious Parrot” because I know the duo only appear in short stories after I’m done with it. Don’t know how hard it will be to get ahold of them. Love this detective duo.

                          (Required, will not be published)

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