Review - AFTER THE SILENCE, Jake Woodhouse
Set in Amsterdam, AFTER THE SILENCE is a debut police procedural introducing, amongst a big cast of characters, Inspector Jaap Rykel. If you were looking for a single word to describe everyone in this book it would have to be damaged. They are all dealing with their own demons, to the point where there is a sneaking suspicion that there's not a happy person in the entire city. Mind you, the themes in the book will also have you wondering about where they have put their human decency into the bargain.
Rykel is a very flawed main character with a complicated past. His work partner, and friend Andreus also has his own problems, although the impending birth of his first child is something he's looking forward to. Until he's shot dead one night, when Rykel should have been working with him, although he was dealing with his sister who has a severe dose of PTSD from her time in Afghanistan. Rykel's guilt is exacerbated by his grief, and his complicated past with Andreus' girlfriend Saskia.
The inclusion of an out of town cop, Tanya van der Mark, seconded somewhat haphazardly to the investigation, to work alongside Rykel brings with her yet another set of private demons. About now the reader could be forgiven for thinking everybody and everything about this book is going to be flawed, damaged, mildly barking or overly complicated.
AFTER THE SILENCE specialises in complications. The personal lives, and backstories of everyone, the plot which works through a lot of threads - the death of the cop Andreus; the murder of an older couple by arson, and the discovery that their hereto unknown adopted child is missing; child abuse rings in a highly technical world and the murders of various business men. You might feel the need to take notes.
As well as the complicated plot and characters, the story is tackling a lot of deeply disturbing ills. Not just child abuse and abduction alongside organised crime including sex slave smuggling and drugs, it also takes a hefty swipe at the pointless interference of political and management types, macho police culture, and the overt sexism and harassment that seems to prevail in every station in the book.
Surprisingly for something as complicated, bleak and dark as AFTER THE SILENCE, there are high points. There are some touches of black humour and whilst many of the male characters are seemingly without a lot of hope, Rykel is an interesting amalgamation of flaw and decency. His new, seconded, partner, van der Mark, is committed, determined and dedicated. Which is obviously a cliché on one level, but on another, believable and consistent. The tension between all the team members is complicated, relies on a lot of past history, and present behaviour but there are some consequences. There is a bit of cop-jep sprinkled throughout that's either going to work because you have a sneaking suspicion that the character deserved it, or drive you bats, depending upon your perspective.
Perhaps the greatest downside to AFTER THE SILENCE is that it bashes the reader over the head with a kitchen sink full of the ills of the world congregating in one investigation and one group of people. There are points where it's overwhelmingly complicated (there's that word again) and it's hard to avoid that sinking feeling of yet another "bad thing" being just around the corner. Having said that, the action is piled into a series of days, following up quickly on a number of violent deaths that trigger an all out search - not just for a cop killer but for a missing little girl. If you look at it from that point of view, then maybe that sort of pressure means that the wheels fall off a lot more quickly and considerably more spectacularly than you'd normally expect.
Despite a slight feeling of doubt, a slight feeling that everything was so bleak, and everybody was so damaged that you'd wonder how anybody got anything resolved ever, AFTER THE SILENCE is an interesting debut which shows promise, hopefully with a step back from the sink. It's definitely a series I'll look forward to following.
A body is found hanging on a hook above the canals of Amsterdam's old town, a mobile phone forced into the victim's mouth.
In a remote coastal village, a doll lies in the ashes of a burnt-down house. But the couple who died in the fire had no children of their own. Did a little girl escape the blaze? And, if so, who is she and where is she now?
Inspector Jaap Rykel knows that he's hunting a clever and brutal murderer. Still grieving from the violent death of his last partner, Rykel must work alongside a junior out-of-town detective with her own demons to face, if he has any hope of stopping the killer from striking again.
Their investigation reveals two dark truths: everybody in this city harbours secrets - and hearing those secrets comes at a terrible price . . .