Saskia Noort is an interesting Dutch writer, described by her UK publishers Bitter Lemon Press as ‘a bestselling author of literary thrillers’. I rather liked the first Noort book they published, The Dinner Club, and so I fell upon her new book, Back to the Coast, with considerable enthusiasm.
In fact, as is the confusing way with the publishing of books from overseas, Back to the Coast was Noort’s debut novel, originally appearing in Holland in 2003. The English translation is by Laura Vroonem. I’m never quite sure why the work is so often published out of sequence – it’s even more puzzling in the case of a mystery series. At least the two Noort books are stand-alones.
The story is told by Maria, a singer with two children and a history of unsatisfactory relationships. At the start of the book, she has an abortion, and soon someone starts to persecute her because of it. Threatening messages are followed by an arson attack on her house. The police are lackadaisical, and soon an increasingly paranoid Maria flees to the coast, to stay with her sister Ans. But there is no hiding place for her. Soon her unhappy past starts to catch up with her.
Strip it down, and this novel fits within the tradition of the woman-in-jeopardy novel. Noort is a trendy writer, but I’m not sure I’d call her books ‘literary thrillers’ – really, she is updating the work of Mary Roberts Rinehart, Ethel Lina White and Mary Higgins Clark. But this is not a criticism. I find her books quirky and intriguing. Here, I guessed the identity of Maria’s persecutor, and the motive, early on. But strangely, this did not spoil my pleasure in a story told in an off-beat way by an appealing and vulnerable narrator. Yet another good book from Bitter Lemon.