Leon de Winter
VSV, or Acts of Kindness
A surprising and cinematic page-turner in which De Winter plays with the boundary between fiction and reality
In this thrilling novel, bestselling author Leon de Winter describes how radical Muslims in Amsterdam blow up the town hall and opera house and hijack a plane before taking the children and teachers at a school (VSV) hostage. Theo van Gogh, the filmmaker and polemicist who was murdered by a Muslim in 2004, plays a special role as the guardian angel of the man who has to bring the hostage situation to a successful conclusion.
In VSV, De Winter describes a fictitious but not implausible series of attacks by Muslim extremists. The protagonist is Max Kohn, a former criminal who has spent the past ten years in Las Vegas, losing himself in drink, drugs and prostitutes. But after a heart operation he decides that he wants to turn his life around. He returns to Amsterdam to reconcile with the love of his life, Sonja Verstraete, a doctor. Kohn had Sonja’s father, a property magnate, killed in retaliation for an attempt on his own life.
What Kohn does not know is that Sonja is the mother of his son, who is one of the hostages that he has to free. His partner in this mission is Kichie Ouaziz, who was once Kohn’s right-hand man and did his dirty work for him. Kichie also has an interest in ensuring a positive outcome; his son is the leader of the terrorists. At a crucial moment in their joint operation to rescue the children and teachers, they are aided by Van Gogh, in the form of a guardian angel who subtly influences the situation, so that the special forces unit can successfully intervene.
While building up to this climax of the novel, De Winter introduces a host of fictitious and real characters, including himself – all with their own motives and background story. As in much of De Winter’s work, some of them are struggling with their Jewish identity.
VSV is far more than just a contemporary thriller about events that may seem far-fetched. De Winter presents a carefully crafted tale that feels both plausible and realistic.