Regardless of your opinion of the city, you have to feel bad for Amsterdam after it’s plagued by several horrific serial killers in Jean Weso’s Amsterdam Trilogy, a three-novel series following a Dutch police detective trying to stop the worst crimes in the nation’s capital.
The 790-page behemoth is a compilation of Amsterdam Sniper, Amsterdam Strangler and Amsterdam Stalker, three high-paced thrillers with very on-the-nose titles. The sniper, strangler and stalkers cases land on the desk of Inspector Rinus Rompa of the Amsterdam Criminal Investigation Department, a hardboiled detective struggling with his recent sobriety.
Readers of the genre may recognize some familiar plot points: an alcoholic and ornery cop with a failed marriage and a challenging relationship with his children but a heart of gold and a surprising capacity for solving mysteries. Interference from politicians and management against the wishes of the shoe leather detectives.
Rompa even has an exceptionally attractive girlfriend who loves him despite his flaws and wears an inordinate number of tight-fitting Desigual dresses.
Usually, a city is touted as being the character in a work, the setting is New York City. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing or Seize the Day by Saul Bellow feature the Big Apple in such a way that the city itself becomes part of the story.
In Weso’s, the character is Amsterdam. Even the most passing familiarity with the country’s most populated city will resonate with readers.
Other crime writers have set their works in Amsterdam. David Hewson’s The House of Dolls also follows a city police officer, while Calvin’s Head by David Swatling focuses on an accidental investigator and his rather smart Golden Retriever.
But in this trilogy, everything from major landmarks to tiny corner pubs makes an appearance as the crimes take Rompa across the canals, parks and tram lines. In one of the novels, the city’s churches are the scene of the crime, in another, it’s the parks.
Jean Weso is the pen name of Jens Anders Wejsmark Sørensen, a Danish journalist and longtime Amsterdam resident. A fictionalised version of himself turns up as a minor character in the novels – Rompa’s AA sponsor is a retired journalist working on crime fiction.
If you can deal with all the thriller tropes and want a bad guy getting away by bike under the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Trilogy makes for a great summer read. And with three stories in one, it will last the entire duration of your French camping holiday.
Buy Amsterdam Trilogy at the American Book Center.
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