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A Cold Death in Amsterdam (Lotte Meerman) Paperback – March 27, 2018
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. . . a novel brilliantly evoking the isolation of a woman with an unbearable weight on her conscience―Sunday Times
About the Author
Anja de Jager is a London-based native Dutch speaker who writes in English. She draws inspiration from cases that her father, a retired police detective, worked on in the Netherlands. Anja worked in the City for twenty years but is now a full-time writer. She is currently working on the next Lotte Meerman novel.
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Driving around one night (when she can’t sleep), she witnesses a botched hold up at a filling station. She shoots and wounds the perpetrator in self defence. As a police officer this is not an issue, except that it preys on her mind – the perpetrator was young and vulnerable.
In the course of interviewing the young man, she is given information which may be relevant to the Cold Case enquiry into a 10-year old murder of a recently released from prison financier. Any leads had long since gone dead. Amsterdam police had requested the passing over of various files from Alkmaar police so they could investigate further, but these had mysteriously disappeared. Lotte is involved on the case and her father, Piet Huizen (also a policeman) had been the investigating Alkmaar detective at the time. She, for various reasons, suspects her father of being part of a cover up – and she believes she has found a reason for his behaviour. She should, of course, reveal her potential clash of interests to her superiors, but she does not. As the net begins to tighten around her ‘omission’, she has no choice but to try and find the murderer before she is compromised.
There are two key suspects, the two partners of the murdered financier. Both have much to gain from his disappearance (one was in fact having an affair with his wife – whom he subsequently married). But the investigation 10 years previously has not been able to tie either of them to the murder – largely because of the missing files.
The book moves through Amsterdam and Alkmaar to a chilling conclusion. Chilling as in frightening and chilling as in cold. The book is set in the depths of winter, with snow on the ground and temperatures down to -10C. In TripFiction terms it is quite brilliant in its descriptions of both cities. Lotte lives by a canal in central Amsterdam – you feel you are there as the snow falls and the temperature drops, and the ice begins to form.
A Cold Death in Amsterdam is a really good and well worked thriller, but it is also a lot more. Anja de Jager is an expert in describing the family relationships that tie Lotte both to her divorced mother and to her father (whom she had not seen for years until the investigation re-opens). Lotte is not a happy bunny – either in her personal family life or in her work. She struggles to find the will to stay alive… and nearly fails. As I said at the beginning, she is damaged but believable, and also someone with whom we can empathise.
A Cold Death in Amsterdam is a book that sticks in the mind, and to which you return. It is beautifully written. It is not, though, translated. Anja, although a native Dutch speaker, lives and works in London. I am in awe.
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.
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.