David Hewson: Sleep Baby Sleep

This is the fourth in David Hewson‘s series featuring Amsterdam-based detective Pieter Vos, and old fans will not be disappointed. In this complex, and swift-moving narrative, Vos is personally involved in a case involving the abduction of a young woman, in circumstances which recall another case from some years before. Vos is troubled by the thought that the loose ends on the other case weren’t fully tied up, and what’s more the bossy new female Commissaris is gunning for him. He’s also edging nervously into a relationship with Marly Kloosterman, the prison doctor. But mostly, he’s being given the runaround by someone who knows his every move, and taunts him via notes and phone calls.
Vos and his assistant Laura Bakker have to battle not only a serial killer, but also to work out the connection to the old case, whilst avoiding the wrath of Jillian Chandra, the publicity-hungry new boss. Hewson deftly handles the various threads, moving in cinematic style between the different story lines, and building a believable cast of characters, including the family of Bert Schrijver, the flower seller whose daughter’s abduction sparks the action. Hewson is good at distinguishing characters through dialogue, giving them all distinctive speech mannerisms and vocabulary.
As with the previous Vos novels, the role of Amsterdam cannot be overstated. Hewson’s spare, direct style evokes the dark side of the city vividly, and provides some memorable locations for the action, from the Zorgvlied cemetery to the hipster bars of De Pijp, to the Albert Cuyp flower market or the snazzy houseboat of Marly Kloosterman. The action is rooted in the city, and the reader feels very much immersed, as the descriptions are so specific and immediate. Vos himself is very appropriately located in his shabby houseboat in the Jordaan, just down from his favourite bar, the Drie Vaten, where he is often to be found with his dog Sam, who is instrumental in this case.
Brilliant and evocative local colour is no use without an excellent plot, and this novel certainly has just that. The reader, along with Vos, remains pretty much in a fog as the seemingly unconnected elements slowly and relentlessly come together before a stunning denouement that is superbly orchestrated, and completely unexpected. The dogged police work and the flashes of insight that lead Vos to the solution, at some personal cost, are laid out for us in traditional style, but I’m confident that very few readers would predict the outcome.
Vos – it means “Fox” – takes his place now in the canon of fictional detectives whose adventures demand the crime fiction fan’s attention. This is an excellent, credible novel, which had me gripped from start to finish. Published on June 1st, 2017 by Macmillan. Available from Wordery.

CC BY-SA 4.0 David Hewson: Sleep Baby Sleep by Dr Rob Spence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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