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
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.