A Cold Case in Amsterdam by Anja de Jager
Amsterdam is a city with more tourists some days than citizens. A city of canals, tall houses, cheese shops, markets selling everything from fabric to herrings. A walkable city, a city of art galleries and museums and canal bridges to lean on and watch the boats go by.
A Cold Case in Amsterdam is the second in a series by Anja de Jager and a book I enjoyed almost as much as a visit to one of my favourite cities. We meet Lotte Meerman who has just been cleared by doctors to return to work as a police inspector. Some of her colleagues are not so sure, having enjoyed their independence in her absence. But Lotte is ready to be back and her first case is not long is coming. A young man, Frank Stapel, a workman, has fallen to his death from the seventh floor of a new building. An accident? Or not? His widow, Tessa, is distraught and Lotte finds herself fiercely protective of this needy young woman.
The parallel story involves the past, and the stories of a man who was a child during the Second World War. The stories he has told, over and over again, to his daughter, Francine, a prosecuting attorney, involve his experiences during the war.
Sometimes, reading books set during the Second World War, one would think that there were only resistance fighters and that no one collaborated with the Nazis during the war. But, obviously that cannot be so. Not everyone was in the resistance and not everyone had a Jew hiding in the attic – there must have been many who gave information that would make this time easier for themselves or their families. Not so hard to understand, perhaps. But, seldom admitted.
When it is discovered that Frank Stapel has a bag of bones hidden in a train station locker, the possibility that his death was not an accident becomes more likely. When it is discovered that not all the bones are those of a long dead Second World War victim, but that some are more recent, the case becomes even more complicated.
To make things more difficult for Lotte one of the builders who Frank Stapel worked for is someone Lotte knew when she was only a girl. Their shared history is one of horror and survival, and their past becomes a compelling part of the present day story.
As happens in a mystery series, we come to know Lotte more with this second novel. She is a woman who keeps her pain to herself, does not talk about it, or share it, though she has found a way to immerse herself in her work and make a life for herself. A Cold Case in Amsterdam takes us further into the life and career of Lotte Meerman – and fortunately, for readers who enjoy this series, there is already a third in the series, Death on the Canal, to carry on with!