A sting in the tail
‘Brains was the boss. He had brought them together and he would turn them into what he wanted: the most feared juvenile gang in the north-east of the Netherlands. Brains was God.’ This is how Jacob Vis begins his story about a juvenile gang in the rural community of the fictional IJsselmonde.
The gang leader ruthlessly gains control of local affairs as a springboard to real work in Amsterdam. For Brains, prostitution, car theft, drugs and intimidation are necessary steps in his quest for criminal pre-eminence.
Things go wrong when a new member does not survive the gang initiation ritual and the police launch an investigation. When the gang kidnaps and tortures two policemen in turn, a special squad is called in, leading to guns being fired and casualties. Members of Parliament, mayors and social workers all condemn the police action and Jacob Vis draws a clear picture of the shortcomings of official organizations. The country is thrown into confusion and the gang are eventually sentenced to community work. Only Brains has to go to prison: he gets a year in a detention centre. When he is released, the gang picks up again where it left off, but with increased brutality. The police are almost powerless and this is made worse by the fact that local police officer, Ben van Arkel, a hero of several of Vis’s previous books, has had to accept the blame for the violent intervention and has been transferred elsewhere.
Ultimately it is the victims who put an end to the youth gang. The driving force is the young art teacher, Lynn Vos, who hopes to save her younger brother from the clutches of Brains. When she is the victim of a gang rape, her brother Robin calls in the assistance of farmers and road workers who make short work of the young criminals. It ends with the hardcore members of the gang being bound naked to the vanes of an old-fashioned Dutch windmill. They barely survive the ordeal and Lynn Vos is sent to prison for attempted murder: a bitter end to a fine book on juvenile crime and fickle society.