Written by Jake Woodhouse — When a corpse is found, minus its head and with both hands blowtorched to a crisp, Amsterdam cop Inspector Jaap Rykel realises he has something unusual to deal with. Even more disturbing is that the man’s mobile phone contains pictures of Rykel and his houseboat home. Meanwhile a homeless woman falls to her death in front of a train, and when CCTV footage is examined it reveals that she was pushed – by a man wearing a police jacket.
Our main warning, before we go on is this: the personal dynamics between the police officers in the story make it more complex than a soap opera. Some of this goes back to the first book in the series, Into the Silence. Anyway, here goes… Rykel’s sister was brutally murdered some time ago. He subsequently had a relationship with the lawyer Saskia, who was married to his colleague Andreus, but Andreus was murdered. Smit, a senior officer was involved in a conspiracy around the murder.
Now, Rykel is in a relationship with Tanya van der Mark, another police colleague. She, in turn, was a child sex abuse victim and is now stalking the perpetrator – her foster father. Floortje is the baby daughter resulting from the liason between Rykel and Saskia. Kees Terpstra is another of Rykel’s colleagues. Terpestra is an effective cop but uses cocaine supplied to him by criminal contacts. He was heavily involved in the events surrounding the death of Andreus, and was Tanya’s lover from when they were training together.
Getting back to the headless body, Saskia is involved in the prosecution of war criminals at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The trial of a notorious Bosnian Serb leader hinges on the evidence of Zamir Isovic, who is under police protection. When Isovic escapes his minder, Kees Terpstra, all hell breaks loose. More bodies are found decapitated and Rykel and his team are led down several garden paths – where the foliage is of the cannabis variety.
The contrasts of the Amsterdam setting are beautifully recreated. On the one hand we have the atmospheric canals, and landmarks like the Anne Frank Huis and the wonderful Van Gogh Museum. On the other we see the venal and the tawdry, the coffee shop drug culture, and the hundreds of glass-fronted kamers, each containing a young woman baring her body to the wide-eyed tourists.
The book is, superficially, a cracking cops ‘n’ robbers story, but with a deep, dark heart. You will read it in just a few sessions and be gripped. Yes, as described, the sheer weight of the personal entanglements occasionally gets in the way of the drama. The human interplay is dramatic in itself, admittedly, but there are times when I wanted to put all the characters in a locked room, and only allow them out when they’d either throttled each other or sworn eternal friendship.
The conclusion of Into the Night is intense, violent and shocking. It wrenches the story out of its relatively conventional police procedural genre, and takes it somewhere different altogether. It left me literally dry-mouthed.
With two more books to go in the quartet, Jake Woodhouse is on to a winner here, and you will not be disappointed when you grab a copy. For someone on only his second novel, he writes like an established master. He spoke to us about his writing – and his unusual pathway to becoming an author – in this interview, and we also reviewed the first Jaap Rykel novel, After The Silence.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars