Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I have taken a bit longer to read Love in Amsterdam by Nicolas Freeling than I thought I would. Firstly because I was also digging into a non-fiction tome at the same time, and secondly because I found it a very deep book.

1973 was it really that long ago that Eye Level, the Van der Valk TV signature tune reached number one in the UK charts.
1972 was the year that Freeling killed off his detective in the books amid much wailing from his readers. Yet it all seems like yesterday, and it is frightening that Barry Foster, the TV Van der Valk died aged 71 in 2002, and Freeling himself died in 2003.

Freeling was working as a senior chef in an Amsterdam hotel, when he was arrested on suspicion as a foreigner of being involved in the city's underworld. Intrigued by the worldly-wise detective who interrogated him, he smoothed out sheets of paper salvaged from his prison job of wrapping soap, and started to write a story featuring such an operator.

The story was Love in Amsterdam, and the detective Van der Valk, and after its success Freeling began to write full time.

Is this book a crime novel or a novel in which crime plays a major part?

I am not sure, but the novel is structured into three parts, in the first of which Martin and Van der Valk discuss the murder of Martin's ex-mistress Elsa. Van der Valk's style of interrogation is more like a friendly chat with a friend as he tries to get all the facts. Van der Valk acts like the "good cop" listening as Martin begins to open up and tell his story.

The second part of the book, which I enjoyed most, is the back story of Martin and Elsa's meeting, love affair and their life together. It continues on to their subsequent break up as Elsa humiliates him, and Martin falls for the younger enigmatic Sophia.

This is an interesting novel within a novel, and Van der Valk does not feature.

The final part of the story covers the examinations of Martin by the Officer of Justice, and the solution to the case.

This is really a book about relationships and their destructive nature. It is an unusual crime novel in which Van der Valk is a supporting actor in Martin, Sophia and Elsa's story.
In the Van der Valk, Freeling created a detective who is an observer of human foibles, and really the main star of the novels is the city of Amsterdam.


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