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The House of Dolls - David Hewson

Three years ago Amsterdam detective Pieter Vos failed to solve the most important case of his career; the disappearance of his daughter Anneliese. Haunted by the fact that she has seemingly vanished without a trace he quits his job, splits from his partner and moves into a decrepit houseboat. Living off his measly pension he spends his days walking his dog and smoking in the local cafes.


Then whilst staring at Petronella Oortman’s doll’s house in the Rijksmuseum he’s approached by Laura Bekker, a trainee officer. Another girl has gone missing, in eerily similar circumstances to Anneliese. Soon Vos is drawn into an investigation, one which shows the murky lines linking those who run the city, and those that run the city’s underworld.


I have read some of David Hewson’s Nic Costa series and of course was aware that he had written novels based on the hit TV series The Killing. This, The House of Dolls was the first in a new series featuring Pieter Vos.


First of all I loved the setting of this book. From David Hewson’s descriptions I could image myself walking along the paths and roads, watching the barges go past on one of Amsterdam’s many canals. It was easy to also imagine the darker side of the city, the red light district and dark alleyways where danger could lurk.


I loved the character of Vos and would dearly hoped that he would return in future books. He was damaged and flawed but remarkable in that he maintained an almost unruffled, placid nature. One that charmed many people, helping him in his investigations. His protégé Laura Bakker was a character that grew on me. Her sometimes bolshie attitude seemed a bit extreme and I was wishing she would calm down in places. That said she was a perfect foil for Vos and the two worked well as characters. Its a sign an author has done their job well when you can easily imagine characters and have a reaction to them. This happened here with The House of Dolls. There were many characters I didn’t like, for example Wim Prins, the missing girl’s father and Liesbeth, Vos’ former partner and this added to the story.


The story soon draws you in, and this is aided by the short, snappy chapters. I’m a sucker for short chapters in novels. It never fails to draw me in with the temptation of ‘just one more chapter’. It always more than just one more chapter in those circumstances! The influence of creating novels from screenplays is perhaps evidenced here as a lot of the chapters played like scenes in a film or television programme and I could almost see the ‘fade to black’.


This is a gritty read, with dark undertones. This is perhaps because of the gangland and political elements to the story, which lent it story strands to make it more than just a police procedural.


An enjoyable read, I’ll be seeking out more of David Hewson’s novels. Pieter Vos and Laura Bakker return in The Wrong Girl.