So yesterday, I had what you could call a ‘Daniel Pembrey Sunday’! I sat in the garden in the sunshine and devoured both books by the author. Oh my days, they are good, so very good! Dark subject matter and slightly scary in parts. But unique, edgy and gritty perfect ingredients for a crime fiction novel.
They are tough novels to review, my journal is packed full of notes but I don’t want to post spoilers. So if my reviews seem sketchy on details, I can assure you that the novels are not! I highly recommend this fantastic series!
The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey (#1 in the Detective Henk Van Der Pol series)
Henk van der Pol is a 30-year-term policeman, a few months off retirement. When he finds a woman’s body in Amsterdam Harbour, his detective instincts take over, even though it’s not his jurisdiction. Warned off investigating the case, Henk soon realises he can trust nobody, as his search for the killer leads him to discover the involvement of senior police officers, government corruption in the highest places, Hungarian people traffickers, and a deadly threat to his own family…
For fans of Euro Noir, John Harvey’s Charlie Resnick series and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, The Harbour Master is an action-packed detective investigation set in the evocative locale of Amsterdam. Delivering for Amsterdam what fans of Scandinavian fiction have come to love, this gripping novel shines a fascinating light on the dark side of a famously liberal society, combining vivid characterisation with ice-cold suspense.
I was instantly drawn to this novel due to its location and synopsis. It sounds intriguing and Amsterdam is a rare setting for a novel in the crime genre. I have read others based in Amsterdam or that have links to the city but nothing quite like this one!
The novel opens with detective Henk Van Der Pol enjoying a morning stroll down at the harbour, that is until he stumbles across a floating dead body in the water. The novel doesn’t just centre around the case of the murder victim. We meet Henk’s arch nemesis Sebastiaan Bergveld aka ‘six shooter’, who is intent on keeping Henk off the case under all circumstances. What is Bergveld hiding? Why is he reluctant to accept any help from an experienced detective? Why does Bergveld take tackle command, when the obvious choice would be Henk?
Henk and police partner Liesbeth Janssen, continue to try to unravel the case from all angles. When Henk’s wife Petra and daughter Nadia are at risk from harm we see a huge change in Henk’s motivation towards the case.
A murky case, straight out of the red light district, involving violent crime, drugs and branded prostitutes. With links to international diplomats, corrupt police alliances and the trafficking of people for sex. This is a novel not to be missed! 4*
Night Market by Daniel Pembrey (#2 in the Detective Henk Van Der Pol series)
When Henk van der Pol is asked by the Justice Minister to infiltrate a team investigating an online child exploitation network, he can hardly say no – he’s at the mercy of prominent government figures in The Hague. But he soon realises the case is far more complex than he was led to believe… Picking up from where The Harbour Master ended, this new investigation sees Detective Van der Pol once again put his life on the line as he wades the murky waters between right and wrong in his search for justice.
Sometimes, to catch the bad guys, you have to think like one. . .
Henk is back! With yet another disturbing case on his hands!
Summoned to a briefing with Willem Van Der Steen, a justice minister. We learn Henk’s new case is to infiltrate a six-man team called SVU X19, SVU meaning special victims unit. To become a mole/plant of sorts and investigate the team and their work, spot a leak and report back to AIVD (Dutch secret service). No easy task, but with rumours of a leak within a team whose role it is, is to prevent child exploitation and sexual abuse. It is one Henk can’t say no too!
The SVU X19 team is based in a remote location at Driebergen. We learn of the individuals and their backgrounds, which makes for fascinating reading. How do you assemble a team to track some of Europe’s most heinous criminals? We also learn of their past cases, which is rather disturbing due to the nature of the crimes committed. We also learn of their current case, surveillance on Heirich Karreman a prominent architect within Amsterdam. This was very reminiscent of the prominent figures who have been exposed in the UK for historical acts of child sexual abuse. This team handles the cases that would give civilians nightmares, It certainly would me!
The SVU X19 team is made up of several characters Manfred Boomkamp, Gunther Engelhart, Jacques Rahm, Tommy Franks, Ivo Vermeulen and Henk. Daniel Pembrey has really excelled himself with the characterisation of this team. It is one of the best formations I have read in a very long time. It really is, brilliant writing. I can’t write too much more, for fear of leaving spoilers. But the evolution of this team is simply breath-taking!
The plot continues to develop and it is more and more unpredictable. It is written in such a style, that you never know what will be revealed and discovered next. Obviously the theme is dark, dealing with issues of child abuse, exploitation of children in the system and child pornography within the novel. But I think this shows the obstacles that organisations/governments face in trying to bring down global, image sharing/creating, paedophile rings. A crime committed and reliant on the upmost secrecy and must avoid detection at all costs. How does the various agency’s link in and take them down? What does it take to work on these teams? How do you track activity that spans Europe? What becomes of the police/agents who deal with these crimes day in and day out? As the author puts it, ‘Sometimes, to catch the bad guys you have to think like one………….’
Highly recommended 5*
*Currently reading The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan*