Love in Amsterdam

Freeling, Nicholas. Love in Amsterdam. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.

Reason read: Police Week is May 15th – 20th…or something like that.

When we meet first Martin he has already been locked up for two weeks for allegedly murdering his ex-lover, Elsa.
In the first sections of Love in Amsterdam Inspector Van der Valk is an unusual cop with unorthodox methods of investigation. It is up to him to solve the crime and I have to admit, he is the most interesting part of the whole story. His philosophy this: it doesn’t matter whether Martin says or believes he is innocent or if he is in fact guilty as all get out. Inspector Van der Valk is going to let Martin into his confidences and listen to every rambling theory. He is going to allow Martin in on every part of the detailed investigation because the more he and Martin spend together the more the truth will emerge. Sooner or later Inspector Van der Valk will get his man. It is an unusual way to go about solving a crime, allowing his best suspect to be an active part of the investigation, but it works.
The second part of Love in Amsterdam is all about Martin’s past revealing motive for the murder: how he knew the victim, the subsequent relationship they had, and how it all fell apart in the end. Is this section supposed to cast doubt on Martin’s innocence?
The final section is a frantic wrapping up of the case. The murderer is revealed and Inspector Van der Valk gets his man.
Stanley Ellin said it best when he described Love in Amsterdam as having “the sinister, spellbinding perfection of a cobra uncoiling.” That is definitely true for the first part of the story.

Quotes to quote, “Dead bodies are not frightening nor are they communicative” (p 21) and “Professor Comenius watched everything with slightly protuberant, healthy lobster eyes” (p 142).

Author fact: Freeling was British, lived in Holland, and died in France.

Book trivia: Love in Amsterdam was Freeling’s first book. It was made into a television show for the BBC as well.

Nancy said: Pearl said “Freeling’s psychological mysteries…remain a classic of the genre” ( Book Lust p 120).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117).


June Not Jumping

This has become a morbid joke but I’m not going to the island so there is no chance of me jumping off anything this month. There is time for books, though. Here’s the list:

Fiction:

  • Book of Reuben by Tabitha King – in honor of June being the month when a lot of people (my sister included) like to get married.
  • Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – in honor of Suicide Prevention Day being in June in some states.
  • Sun Storm by Asa Larsson – in honor of Larsson’s birth month being in June.

Nonfiction:

  • Soldiers of God by Robert Kaplan – in honor of Kaplan’s birth month being in June.
  • From a Persian Tea House by Michael Carroll – in recognition of Khomeini’s death in the month of June.

Series continuations:

  • Because of the Cats by Nicholas Freeling – to continue the series started in May.
  • Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the never-ending series started in January.
  • Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in April.
  • Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian – to continue the series started in May.

Short stories for National Short Story Month:

  • “Shadow Show” by Clifford Simak
  • “The Answers” by Clifford Simak
  • “The Life and Times of Estelle…” by Sherman Alexie
  • “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie
  • “Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
  • “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis

Murder in Amsterdam

Buruma, Ian. Murder in Amsterdam: the Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance. London: Atlantic Books, 2006.

Reason read: the big Holland tulip festival is in May…although this has nothing to do with flowers.

Mohammed Bouyeri was 26 years old when he not only shot Theo van Gogh several times but slashed his throat with a machete as well. He ended his assault by stabbing a note into Van Gogh’s lifeless body – however the final insult was kicking the corpse before calmly walking away. The note, oddly enough, wasn’t addressed to Van Gogh (rightly so since the dead man couldn’t read it) but to anti-Islam politician Hirsi Ali who claimed the Koran was the source of abuse against women. That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of folks in Holland who wished Van Gogh dead. He thrived on being controversial to the point of revolting. Buruma knew Van Gogh in certain circles so I can only imagine what it was like to write about his death as an acquaintance. But, the actual crime is only the centerpiece for the much wider topic of controversies surrounding what happens when nonconformist immigrant populations with differing religions and cultural politics clash against other stringent societies.

As an aside, whenever I thought about the subtitle of Murder in Amsterdam (The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance) I had Natalie Merchant’s lyrics from “This House is On Fire” in my head, “You go passing wrong for right and right for wrong people only stand for that for just so long”. She is not asking what is the limit of tolerance. She is telling you there IS a limit.

Lines that lingered, “When smugness is challenged, panic sets in” (p 15), “Unsure of where he belonged, he lost himself in a murderous cause” (p 23), “Part walking penis, part phony aristocrat, Fortyn became a presence, in TV studios, on radio programs, and at public debates that could not be ignored” (p 59), and (last one), “The sense of being “disappeared” can lead to aggression, as well as self-hatred; dreams of omnipotence blend with the desire for self-destruction” (p 140).

Author fact: Buruma also wrote a book called Voltaire’s Coconuts. With his sense of humor (and not having read the book) I wonder what coconuts he’s referring to….

Book trivia: there are no pictures of Theo van Gogh nor maps of the area in which he was murdered.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Hollandays” (p 96).


Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam

Ewan, Chris. The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam. New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2007.

Charles Howard is a suspense writer visiting Amsterdam for inspiration to the ending of his latest crime-thief thriller. He shouldn’t ever get writers’ block because he happens to be one of the very thieves he writes about in his “fiction.” As a petty thief he steals things just because he can. In addition, the thefts stave off boredom and supplement his writing career. One of his sidekicks is his literary agent, Victoria, who he has never met. He tells he everything about his thieving escapades. This time word has gotten around – he’s a good a thief as they come – and he is approached by an American willing to pay him to steal the matching plaster monkey figurines to his “See No Evil.” The figures are cheap and the job seems to simple. Howard rightly thinks there has to be a catch and of course, there is. After successfully stealing “Hear No Evil” and “Speak No Evil” all hell breaks loose when the American is murdered and his death is pinned on Howard.

Chris Ewan’s writing is fun and furious. It’s easy to read 100 pages in a single lunch break without looking up once. His Charles Howard character is entertaining with just the right amount of cheeky sarcasm contrasted with humble likeability. Like other reviewers I enjoyed his sly and flirty relationship with his literary editor. Of course the ending is wrapped in a “Who Dunnit” ending with a neat little bow, but because Ewan kept many details out this play by play was almost necessary to make the ending complete.

Good line: “It was enough, to begin with, to be somewhere I wasn’t meant to be, without anyone knowing about it” (p 79).

Reason Read: in honor of the Amsterdam marathon which takes place in October.

Author Fact: Chris Ewan has his own Bond-like website. It’s entertaining, just like his books.

Book Trivia: The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam is the first in a series of “Good Thief” books by Ewan.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Las Vegas” (p 130). This was another one of those “mentioned by default” books Pearl decided to include. This particular “Good Thief’s Guide” has nothing to do with Vegas but because Ewan wrote another one that does take place in Vegas Amsterdam gets a mention as well.