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Friday, 28 October 2016

The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey @DPemb @noexitpress

Henk van der Pol is a 30-year-term policeman, a few months off retirement.
When he finds a woman's body in Amsterdam Harbour, his detective instincts take over, even though it's not his jurisdiction. 
Warned off investigating the case, Henk soon realises he can trust nobody, as his search for the killer leads to the involvement of senior police officers, government corruption in the highest places, Hungarian people traffickers and a deadly threat to his own family

The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey is published in paperback by No Exit Press on 10 November. Originally published as three novellas, No Exit Press have brought the stories about Henk van der Pol together into one volume. They've done a great job, the book is presented beautifully and that cover is wonderful, and fits so well with the story inside.

I can't remember reading any crime books set in Amsterdam before and Daniel Pembrey certainly brings this place to life. I am old enough to remember watching Van der Valk on the television in the 70s, and I have to admit that the theme tune kept playing in my head as I was reading! However, Amsterdam is not the only setting here, the reader is taken to Brussels and to Norway before the end of the book.

Henk van der Pol is close to retirement. The opening scenes of The Harbour Master find him down by the Harbour, en-route to meet with his journalist wife Petra, Vividly described, this scene sets the pace for the rest of the book as Henk discovers a body in the glassy waters, Despite the fact that Henk has thirty years service behind him, and he only has a few months left to work, he is totally committed to this case. Determined to discover who the dead woman is, and how she got there.

It soon becomes clear though that there are people in high places who would prefer that Henk kept his nose out. Everything possible is done to prevent him from taking on the case. Henk is not that sort of guy though, and he soon finds that his actions have put him, and his family in grave danger.

This is fine, high-quality writing with a lead character who is perfectly drawn and a wonderful sense of location throughout. The plot lines - and there are three, one for  each segment of the book - are complex yet excellently paced and deal with some quite dark and sinister issue.

Daniel Pembrey seamlessly connects his storytelling with the history, politics and criminal underworld of his locations and this is told with great depth and wonderful characterisation. Henk commands loyalty from those closest to him, and the reader very quickly becomes one of his closest allies as he struggles to overcome the barriers that seem to be constantly in his way.

The absolute attention given to location and sense of place coupled with a well imagined and intricate plot, alongside characters who are solidly created makes The Harbour Master a stand-out crime story. The balance is perfect and hugely satisfying, recommended for all fans of crime fiction.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy of The Harbour Master for review,

Daniel Pembrey grew up in Nottinghamshire beside Sherwood Forest. He studied history at Edinburgh University and received an MBA from INSEAD business school.
Daniel then spent over a decade working in America and more recently Luxembourg, coming to rest in Amsterdam and London - dividing his time now between these two great maritime cities.

He is the author of the Henk van der Pol detective series and several short thriller stories, and he contributes articles to publications including The Financial Times, The Times and The Field.

In order to write The Harbour Master, he spent several months living in the docklands area of East Amsterdam, counting De Druif bar as his local.

For more information visit
Follow him on Twitter @DPemb
Find his Author page on Facebook


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