Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Back to the Coast


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.

10 comments:

Maxine said...

Sounds as if I'd enjoy this book - thanks for highlighting it. Darn, that makes two in the past hour that I've added to my "would like to read" list!

Dorte H said...

I wonder whether this publishing out of order problem is a British phenomenon. I know that Jo Nesbo and Hakan Nesser´s series are also translated in a quite haphazard way. With Nesbo the reason may be that his two first were less convincing than the following, but considering the number of people who prefer reading in order it may put people off a writer altogether.
I cannot say with certainty that it never happens in Denmark, but I have never come across it.

Martin Edwards said...

Dorte, the same happens in the US. I know,because the first of my Harry Devlin books to appear there was the fifth in the series. I was baffled by this, I must admit. The only explanation was that they wanted to publish the most recent title.....

pattinase (abbott) said...

I bet she's not available here. I'd love to read a Dutch writer.

pattinase (abbott) said...

WRONG. I found her at the library.

Martin Edwards said...

Let me know what you think!

Bob Cornwell said...

Martin,
As Charles den Tex and I pointed out in Crime Scene Netherlands in Crime Time 54 (download at http://www.crimetime.co.uk/mag/
index.php/magazine)
is a term invented by Dutch publishers, on the back of the success in that country of Nicci French, to suggest 'something more than a thriller'. UK publishers attempt something similar, but probably have more 'literary' models in mind. Just another of the little quirks that occur when comparing genres across differing cultures...
PS I'm about a third of the way in. The book is shaping up very nicely.

canada mystery author said...

Hi Martin,
Thanks for sharing the interesting post.
Keep up posting.

crimeficreader said...

In the NL, her book 2 sold twice as many as her first book, so perhaps Bitter Lemon went with the second first, found it sold ok and then went on to print the first second?

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for all the latest comments. Crimefic, I guess your explanation is the right one. Bob, do let us know your final verdict on the book.