Elizabeth K.'s Reviews > Outsider in Amsterdam

Outsider in Amsterdam by Janwillem van de Wetering
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's review
Jul 09, 09

liked it
bookshelves: 2009-new-reads
Read in July, 2009 , read count: 1

This is the first in the Grijpstra and de Gier series. I have read maybe two others, out of order, over the years, and enjoyed them well enough but for whatever reason, I had not picked up the first one until I saw it recently at the library.

So, Grijpstra and de Gier are police detectives in Amsterdam, Grijpstra is the more senior (they go over the Dutch police ranking system about a million times in the series but I've never quite absorbed it) married, rumpled, slightly stout one, and his junior partner is de Gier, who is more of the single hipster guy with the awesome 70s mustache and denim suits. In this one, they are investigating a murder/suicide of the leader of a spiritual society. The mystery is fine, but it mostly gives Grijpstra and de Gier opportunities to share their observations about human nature.

As far as I understand it, van de Wetering, who lived in the U.S. for many years and was a fluent English speaker, translated his own works into English. And I think this is what gives them, especially the dialogue, a very unique, mannered tone that serves to distance you a little bit from the action. You know how sometimes people complain about American movies that show, for example, people in Russia speaking English with Russian accents to each other, because that makes no sense? This book reads that way - it's like a book about Dutch people speaking English with Dutch accents. This sounds like a complaint, but I actually find it very appealing. It almost gives it an allegorical feel.

This book is from 1975, so there are some jarring offhand references to gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, women in the workplace, and the counterculture. Some of them are related to the plot, others are almost throw-away points. It helps if you can put on your 1970s goggles while reading. On the other hand, one aspect of the plot revolves around a native Papuan man who retained his Dutch citizenship after the end of the Dutch colonial state in West New Guinea, and is now living in Amsterdam. So in this way, this very specific experience of this time period makes for fascinating reading.

It's also especially fun if you have been to Amsterdam, because the story is very connected to the urban environment and it's easy to place all the action if you are even somewhat familiar with the city.

Grade: B

Recommended: This is a very serviceable mystery novel for fans of police stories, and also people interested in Amsterdam.


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