A literary thriller about the instinct to protect one’s loved ones
The fifth volume in Lieneke Dijkzeul’s Vegter series begins with a chilling scene. A large, heavy-set man lies dead on the kitchen floor. He’s 6 foot tall, over 12 stone of dead weight. The female murderer wonders how she is going to move his much too heavy body.
The perpetrator’s solution for moving ‘that thing lying in the way’ is simple and effective. She gets a trolley, ties the head to the legs and rolls the lot out of the door. What comes next is a classic whodunit. The duo Vegter and Talsma, a Dutch version of Dalziel and Pascoe, follow a series of clues to unmask the culprit. In her choice of characters, Dijkzeul lends an unexpected twist to the familiar patterns of the genre.
The dead man, Richard Verkallen, co-owned with his brother a car body shop, a family business set up by their father. Brother Peter follows in his father’s footsteps but Richard is a misfit. He would rather have been an artist but his father more or less forced him to join the family business. His marriage to Asli, who came to the Netherlands seventeen years previously as a student from Somalia, is not exactly welcomed by the family. As he wrestles with all of this, he seeks solace in the arms of a secretary, Gemma, a relationship which his family does approve of.
The police investigation revolves around these two women. Gemma wants just one thing, Richard’s love, but she suffocates him so much with her longing that he holds her at arm’s length. Asli experiences the detachment that goes with being a migrant. She misses the close family bonds and warm climate of her motherland. She focuses all her attentions on her son, the deaf and autistic, Keja. *What Remains *is not just a whodunit but also a family drama about the importance of a safe home.
Dijkzeul’s clear style and attention to detail fit perfectly with the sober, observational detective work in the novel. The reader closely follows Vegter and Talsma along the way. Detective Vegter, who enjoys wine, classical music and literature has almost reached retirement age. Fans of this series can only hope that Dijkzeul manages to prolong his farewell from working life a little longer.