Monday, May 1, 2017

“A Cold Death in Amsterdam” by Anja De Jager

Europe’s fictional police detectives are a suffering lot. In recent months, I’ve read contemporary police procedurals from Britain, Ireland, and the Continent and found diabetics, recovering alcoholics, neatness neurotics bordering on psychotic, and divorced detectives, struggling with personal problems as they undertake murder and other criminal investigations. In fact, the criminals seem more normal than the detectives trying to bring them in.

And then there’s Amsterdam’s Lotte Meerman.

Meerman investigates cold cases, and she’s just finished a big one – the 15-year-old disappearance of a little girl. She should be gratified, but instead she’s going to pieces. The case and its details continue to haunt her, at times almost immobilizing her.

One cold winter night, just driving around, she stops for gasoline and interrupts a holdup at the gas station. She ends up having to shoot the teenaged perpetrator, but the wound isn’t fatal. And he tells her that his uncle had killed someone. It turns out that the uncle is a very powerful investment banker, and involved in a case from years before.

It was a case her father investigated, the one he was working on when he was told to retire. The case files were supposedly picked up by the new detectives assigned to the case, but somehow the files disappeared. And Meerman must come to grips with the idea that her father may not only be involved in destroying police files but in committing the murder itself.

A Cold Case in Amsterdam, published in 2015, is the first of three Lotte Meerman police novels by Anja De Jager, the others being A Cold Case in Amsterdam Central and The Murderer’s Guide to Family (not yet available in the U.S.). A fourth, Death on the Canal, is scheduled for publication in November.
Anja De Jager

The book is much as psychological novel as it is a police procedural.  De Jager allows us to crawl inside Meerman’s head, as she slowly unwinds what happened with the missing child case and gradually winds up the current case. This detective is suffering from what she learned, what she did, how she unknowingly became personally involved, and the known (to her) reason for her parents’ divorce years before.

Netherlands-born Anja De Jager worked for 20 years in London’s business district before becoming a full-time writer. Her father is a retired police detective, and she herself is more than familiar the investment and financial transactions, which become important to the Meerman investigation.. She lives in London.

A Cold Case in Amsterdam starts slowly and gradually works itself to almost fever pitch. We’re not sure how to react to this detective, isolated from colleagues and family, who seems bent on her own destruction and not particularly caring about what is happening to her. But she will work her way through the personal and investigatory challenges to solve the case.

And leave just enough issues hanging to make the reader want to reader the second novel.

Photograph of Amsterdam in winter courtesy of Netherlands Tourism.

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