Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome
On the Publication Day of his latest Detective Pieter Vos Novel
5th May 2016
Hello David, welcome to Jaffareadstoo and congratulations on the publication of your latest novel.
Without revealing too much, what can you tell us about Little Sister?
This is a story about two sisters who, at the age of ten, were deemed guilty of a terrible crime: the murder of a man they seem to have believed, wrongly, had killed their family. We meet them eleven years on, after incarceration in an institution outside Amsterdam in a remote lakeside location. Their doctor thinks they’re well enough for a gradual return to the community. But when they set off for a halfway house in the city with their nurse they disappear - as does the nurse. And Vos, drawn into the case almost by accident, begins to realise that the family tragedy of a decade before was never fully investigated and is still, for some people, very much alive. So it’s a story about guilt and retribution and, for the sisters, Mia and Kim Timmers, a fight to understand what really happened to them in the past.
Where do you get your inspiration for a story from – are you inspired by people, places or do you draw purely from your imagination?
Bit of both really. I spend a lot of time in the Netherlands for these books. They’re published pretty much simultaneously in Dutch too so I have a publisher in Amsterdam who’s incredibly helpful when it comes to background. But I never use real-life incidents or people as inspiration. I think imagination’s a wonderful thing and I’d be cheating a bit if I did that.
Your writing is very atmospheric – how do you ‘set the scene’ in your novels and how much research did you need to do in order to bring Little Sister to life?
I choose a particular area of the city and a set time of year because they will dictate a lot of the story. This takes place in high summer, much of it in the rural area outside Amsterdam called Waterland. So I rent an apartment and travel the buses, taking photos, making notes, trying out ideas. The contrast between rural Waterland and the busy city is a key part of this book. Mia and Kim can’t wait to escape their institution and reach the city. But when they get there — surreptitiously — it’s quite terrifying for them.
Whilst researching the novel, did you discover anything which surprised you?
The biggest surprise was discovering Waterland. It’s only fifteen kilometres from the centre of Amsterdam but it’s like travelling from the middle of London to furthest Cornwall. The best known place is Edam where the cheese originated. A lot of the story, though, takes place in the fishing and tourist village of Volendam and the little island of Marken. The Dutch view this as a holiday area and it’s delightful but foreign visitors barely know it exists.
When do you find the time to write, and do you have a favourite place to do your writing?
Well writing’s what I do for a living so finding the time for it is no problem at all. Though I could always use more. Mostly I write at home in Kent but I always take the work in progress with me on the road. A fair bit of this book was actually written in an apartment overlooking the Prinsengracht canal, not far from where Vos’s fictional houseboat would be. But home, with a big screen and no distractions, is probably the best place to write.
Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?
The fourth Vos book is already finished and will be out in a year’s time. After that… I’m working on a few ideas. And the first Vos book is being developed as an eight-part series for Dutch TV which is exciting too - looking forward to seeing that.
David Hewson is a former journalist who has worked at The Times, The Independent and The Sunday Times. He is the author of twenty crime thrillers set in various European cities, including the critically acclaimed interpretation of Danish TV drama The Killing and the Nic Costa series set in Rome. His ability to capture the sense of place and atmosphere of the cities in his novels comes from spending considerable research time there. David was inspired to write his new detective crime series starring Pieter Voss ( The House of Dolls, its sequel The Wrong Girl and now Little Sister) after exploring the city of Amsterdam..
My thanks to the author and to the publishers Macmillan for my review copy of Little Sister
and to Sophie at EDPR for her help with this interview.