“Amsterdam Calling” by Tom Benson is a beautiful novel. Part romance, part mystery thriller the book has both lighter and deeper tones. Dan, a British journalist, is on his way to Amsterdam after running into trouble in Manchester. He meets Crystal, an American woman who is heading to the Dutch capital, too. In her case it is to find out more about her family’s history. They end up travelling together and explore the city. I’m a big fan of Amsterdam and found the descriptions of the city and its wonderful sights charming, accurate and well incorporated into the story. It took me back to many holidays I had there. Benson captures the spirit of the city and the people wonderfully.
But this is not just a simple travel memoir. It has reflections on European and Dutch history and their effects on the present. For our lovers their personal / familial past comes to haunt them in the present, too, which adds complexity to the story.
This is not as fast paced as you’d expect for a thriller and – thankfully – doesn’t venture suddenly into James Bond territory. Instead of an adrenaline fuelled action piece this novels gives more space to character development and unfolding of the romance. The disturbance of the peace helps well to illustrate how sudden and unexpected the troubles in the past must have hit the city. A fascinating and - despite its relaxed pace - a gripping read.