In her award-winning whydunnit, Verhoef shows how easy it is to commit a crime
The clever thing about Verhoef ’s thrillers is that they never stray far from a familiar, everyday environment, yet her characters always go just that one step further. It’s easy to commit a crime. A vicarious anxiety arises in us as readers and we have to stop ourselves from shouting out, ‘No, don’t do that!’ This is even more the case in her latest bestseller, the award-winning Dear Mama.
Behind the saccharine title lies a cruel world. Ralf and Brian, two lanky youths, are determined to pull off something big. Ralf dropped out of school and needs money for his proudly-owned car. His friend Brian is unemployed and uses more powders and pills than his resources allow. They decide to alleviate their money worries by burgling a rich family’s house. Ralf keeps a lookout while Brian breaks in.
When nurse Helen Möhring and her husband Werner, owner of a successful chain of fast-food restaurants and parents of a clutch of spoilt adolescents, catch the burglar, they don’t panic or hand over their valuables. Werner lets fly at him and Helen resolutely shoots the intruder dead.
Instead of calling the police they try to think of a solution. It would never occur to the average person to make a body disappear with the medical waste at a hospital, but it does to these two. Buying a powerful electric saw – recommended by the salesman with the words ‘Good tools are half the work’ – is simply a matter of a trip to the builder’s merchants.
Verhoef subtly interweaves Ralf’s search for his vanished friend with the couple’s efforts to get rid of the body, bit by bit, without being noticed. As the genre requires, everything turns out a little differently than we are led to expect. Verhoef uses all the tricks in the thriller writer’s handbook to keep us enthralled to the very end, biting our nails and wringing our hands.