Fanciful, with a sting in the tail
On tour in America to promote the successful translation of her novel, Een hart van steen (A Heart of Stone), Renate Dorrestein sold the rights to Zonder genade (No Mercy) to the Viking publishers for Euro 225,000. Never before had such a high price been paid for a Dutch book; it was even more remarkable because Zonder genade had yet to be published. The novel is now out in both Dutch and English and it has to be said that Dorrestein has more than lived up to such great expectations. Zonder genade is an exciting, compelling psychological thriller in which the author deals with the theme of senseless violence.
It is about the social phenomenon whereby groups of young people beat up a passer-by on the street for no reason whatsoever, often with fatal consequences for the victim.
In her novel, Dorrestein tells the story of Franka and Phinus Vermeer, who lose their fourteen-year old only son, Jem. Jem, in love for the first time and with his whole life still before him, is accidentally shot dead in a discotheque. Their relationship, which was always so close and a shining example to their friends, falls to pieces through grief. Six months after the tragedy, Franka is still unable to sleep a wink at night and lies awake, listening to Phinus grinding his teeth in his sleep. Their sorrow drives them apart. Franka would like them to mourn together, keeping their memories of Jem alive, but Phinus refuses to even talk about their dead child. He is quietly being eaten away by guilt feelings and wants to forget the fatal event as quickly as possible. At the same time, he is consumed by a longing for revenge.
When they decide to go away to the country for a weekend to try and rekindle their old relationship, the drama comes to a head. Franka and Phinus become increasingly entangled in the secrets they are keeping from each other. All in all, Zonder genade is a gripping, enthralling tale, like Een hart van steen skilfully and poignantly told – highly recommended.