(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“Papuans…He saw the wild men from the early ages who once populated the swamp that, now, today, was called Holland.”
Today in 1970’s Amsterdam, most have learned about these people from the Dutch colony of New Guinea in school, but few had ever met one. Also, in 1970’s Amsterdam—on a somewhat unrelated note— murders are few and far between.
So partners, Detective-Adjutant Gripstra and Sergeant de Gier, will soon find their purpose as policemen.
They are called to the hindist society where a man is hanging from the ceiling as an apparent suicide. This man is Piet Verboom, the head of the society and a Papuan. The more the two detectives look into the situation, the more it looks like murder: with multiple suspects from religious/business associates to an ex-wife and almost everyone who had contact with Verboom. Of course this leads to a variety of possible motives, some involving a pregnant lover, miso soup, hash and heroin.
Originally published in 1975, the late Janwillem van de Wetering, referred to his experience as a part-time policeman as the motivation for his novels.
Outsider in Amsterdam is a tightly knit crime novel that explores racism and the effects of colonialism, along with the city’s long-standing drug culture. It was the first of thirteen novels in the “Amsterdam Cop” series featuring the two detectives: Gripstra– older, portly, married and badly-dressed, and de Gier, unmarried, womanizing and somewhat philosophical. Luckily these two, opposites in appearance and personality, report to an elder commissari, who at first seems somewhat bumbling. However unlike police captains and high ranking officers in most detective novels, he provides an experienced and intuitive perspective to their cases.
Though there is nothing bizarre or extraordinary to classify this as a “must-read”, I think that fans of crime novels with a cultural angle will enjoy this one.