Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Review of The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey

A career cop, Henk van der Pol is six months from retirement.  Up early one morning he’s present when a young woman is discovered floating in Amsterdam harbour.  Very quickly his colleague and boss have excluded him from the case.  Not satisfied with the way it is being handled, Henk runs his own parallel investigation. From a tattoo on her ankle he determines that the woman was a gang-run prostitute from Hungary. Tangling with her pimp, Henk soon finds himself threatened by both the pimp and his police colleagues.  He turns to a highly connected politician for help only to be enrolled in another scandal, this one involving diplomatic favours for political gain.  Not quite sure who to trust and fearing for his family’s safety Henk tries to navigate a treacherous terrain.

The Harbour Master is a police procedural thriller set in Amsterdam. The lead protagonist is Henk van der Pol, a cop nearing retirement, who is very much his own man and is reluctant to retire quietly.  When he suspects that an investigation is being deliberately stalled he decides to keep digging, placing himself and family in danger. From there Pembrey keeps layering in criminal intrigue and police and political corruption as Henk stumbles and prods, making and tangling with enemies close by.  Pembrey keeps the pace and tension high, but there were too many things I had a hard time believing from police and diplomatic conspiracies, to threats to shut police stations outside of any procedures or public process, to Henk’s investigative journalist wife having never previously visited Brussels.  The whole police setup felt far too small, rather than the large sprawling bureaucracy that it is.  The result was a tale that had plenty going on, but didn’t quite ring true.

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