The Tenth Woman
Golden Noose 2007
De tiende vrouw (The Tenth Woman) is an epic thriller about money laundering practices and the Amsterdam mafia. The novel is rooted in current affairs, and based on a real-life controversy involving a mafia boss, Willem Holleeder, and a property magnate, Willem Endstra, regarded as the banker of the underworld.
It is said that Willem Holleeder extorted millions from Endstra before the latter was ultimately murdered. In De Tiende Vrouw, Roel Janssen imagines what might have happened if Endstra had managed to escape.
A megalomaniacal project developer called Eric Pincoff manages to obtain a plethora of subsidies thanks to an amorous affair with a female European Commissioner, resembling the current Commissioner, Neelie Kroes. Two lightly comical extortionists – in whom we may recognize the mobsters Holleeder and the (recently murdered) John Mieremet – put the thumbscrews on Pincoff, who flees on his yacht in the company of his trusty boatswain and the pushy journalist, Tessa Insinger.
The novel narrates this long sea journey, including the tensions on board (erotic and otherwise), and alternates it with flashbacks to the Amsterdam mafia and the ill-gotten subsidies. Tessa Insinger, from whose perspective the story is told, is anything but a journalist: she has a secret agenda and is after revenge. The people on board the yaught find themselves in jeopardy when armed pursuers appear on the scene. The boatswain turns out to be a skilled sailor but Tessa discovers that he is not as trustworthy as she had imagined. A fourth man, Pincoff’s banker, who boards the yacht on one of the Channel Islands, turns out to be unreliable too. Tessa attempts to unravel Pincoff’s secrets. Where has he hidden the money and how can she get her hands on it? She gradually discovers that Pincoff’s empire is spread across bank accounts registered in the names of the ten women who bore Charlemagne’s children. The name of the tenth woman is the key to the black money.
Janssen succeeds admirably in presenting a beautifully complete story, interlaced with numerous interesting facts. It would make a marvellous film with its splendid seascapes and sultry moments on the boat.