My appetite for Halm’s Assassin series was whetted by reading his novellas.
Halm skillfully merges several story lines together in this entertaining novel. Unlike his short works,, here he has added several interesting characters: Deborah Stern, a DEA agent coming off a shooting who has been transferred to Amsterdam especially because she speaks fluent Dutch; Bram Merelyn is a blind man whom Katla is watching as he happened upon her in the gallery of a man Katla had just killed. They develop a relationship and there is a great scene where he, the blind man, takes her to a movie.
Katla is hired by some drug dealers to kill an undercover DEA agent who has wormed his way into their midst. They happen to have a source within the police agency so they dare not kill him themselves and must have the killing look like it was done by a member from a competing gang.
Books about assassins rarely work well if the character is just a superhuman killing automaton. Even Stark's Parker has a human side in his relationship with his girlfriend and Keller evolves into a father and regular citizen as Block's series evolves. So Halm begun to develop Katla, a professional in a bizarre professional. She nevertheless makes mistakes and has an emotional side. She has her own moral compass. Halm’s world is populated by very grey moral compasses. As he says, “In this world there is always room for smart immoral people.”
I will certainly read the rest of the series, and I’m hoping that the author focuses more on Katla, perhaps developing the relationship with Bram, both interesting characters. A minor gripe is that there were a couple of tidbits I thought to be extraneous. For example the mugging of Deborah Stern, her disabling of the criminal, and then the comments regarding the Dutch legal system ‘s apparent “coddling” of criminals. If the story was intended to be a critique of their system, it was completely defanged by the subsequent prank played on Stern by her colleagues. I’d love to hear a comment from the author regarding my observation on this.
It’s always fun to read novels set in foreign cities. For those interested in more Amsterdam stories, besides Halm’s, I can recommend Baantjer’s Dekok series. Dekok is a sort of Dutch Maigret.