The Wrong Girl – David Hewson

This is the second  of the Pieter Vos series (my review of the first is here) and firmly establishes the author as one of my favorites. (Why has it taken me so long to find out about this guy?) Read on for the details.

It’s December in Amsterdam. The city is tense with seasonal excitement about the forthcoming parade of Sinterklaas (Santa Claus?) and his attendants. Broadcast live, this big event is sure to attract hundreds of thousands to witness the occasion, and join in the fun. Except this year, the fun is curtailed by what starts out seeming like a terrorist attack, and develops into the kidnap of an eight year old girl. It was supposed to be the child from an Amsterdam aristocratic family; instead it’s the child of a Georgian single mother and prostitute.

Vos and his colleagues find themselves in a forest of competing interests, with the kidnappers making demands that are way above the head of the police force, and the security services making demands that are equally frustrating, an no less difficult. There’s a race against time, to wade through the obstacles and try and find and rescue the girl before it’s too late. The kidnapped child has her own ideas, as does her mother, and even the family of the original target play a part.

Although the central part of the plot was easy enough to work out, this is a finely told tale, with great characters, fine pacing, and a great setting. Hewson is economical with his descriptions, but brings the backdrop to life, and makes the characters seem like familiar people. He keeps the excitement up, and delivers a gripping finale. I very much enjoyed the writing style; it’s neither pretentious, nor flowery, but is packed with fine observation, and skillful focus. The story moves on, and you are carried along. It reminded me a lot of another great writer, Deon Meyer.

There are two measures for me of how good a novel is. One is that there is a sense of disappointment on reaching the end, because I want more. The other is that I read on, when I should be getting to sleep; in other words, a book that is hard to put down. Well, this book succeeds on both counts. Just wonderful.

Do yourself a favor, and get out there and discover David Hewson now. You will not be disappointed.

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