I recently realized that, for me, mystery novels are like snacks – delicious and enjoyable, but often have to be set aside for proper meals. I usually read a mystery novel between more serious literary novels – and sometimes it is hard to put them aside when I know there are more in a series. I have just read the first in The Lotte Meerman mystery series by Anja de Jager, A Cold Death in Amsterdam, which is followed by A Cold Case in Amsterdam, and a third to be published in June, Death on the Canal.
Anja de Jager was born and raised in Alkmaar in the Netherlands before moving to England where she worked in The City. Her father was a policeman so it is a world she is familiar with, and she has used this as inspiration for her novels. She has also set part of her first novel in Alkmaar, less than an hour’s drive outside of Amsterdam. We are introduced to Lotte Meerman, a police detective who has just concluded the investigation of a very disturbing case. Solving the 15 year old case of a missing child – found murdered – has left her traumatized and barely able to cope with day to day living, let alone the next case demanding her attention. Lotte complains of insomnia and nightmares – and by noon she is already on her fifth cup of coffee. She is 40ish, childless, and divorced. There are a lot of difficult family dynamics, and Lotte is still conflicted about her relationship with her parents who divorced when she was young.
Anyone who knows Amsterdam even a little will recognize the familiar presence of bicycles, the meandering canals, and landmarks in the old part of the city, The Westerkerk, the nearby neigbourhood of Jordaan, and the many markets.
The story takes place in winter, just after Christmas, and the city is cold. As is part of the current investigation. A man was murdered some years earlier and the case was never solved, but has now re-opened when another murder occurs, the victim a man who was associated with the earlier murder. Things become even more difficult for Lotte when it appears that her father, a retired policeman, might be involved – and not in a good way.
Anja de Jager said in an interview, “A few years after my father retired, police officers from Amsterdam visited him to re-open the investigation of a murder in my hometown that had stayed unresolved for over a decade. That image of the retired police detective being asked questions about an old case stayed with me even though in my book I changed everything else. I set the crime in the world of finance, which is where I work.”
The Lotte Meerman series is new to me, and it has everything I like in a mystery novel. The setting is one where I’d love to spend time, the detective is interesting in her own troubled way, and the investigation kept me engrossed in the novel. I can’t wait to read the next one, and the next one. Yum, yum.