Try the Mortuary
A past that can’t be buried
The past can’t be buried. It is simply not possible to draw a line under a dubious period in your life. Some day, and no one can predict quite when, the past will come knocking on your door. This is the point of departure for Eva Maria Staal’s exciting debut entitled Probeer het mortuarium (Try the Mortuary).
Her main character - also called Eva Maria Staal - was once the right hand of a notorious weapons dealer. Guns and grenades for the Chechens? Tanks for Pakistan? No problem. Staal and her boss Jimmy Liu delivered anywhere and always on time. They didn’t even recoil from smuggling children. After falling out with Liu and starting anew, Staal marries her adolescent love, Martin, and gives birth to a daughter. But how can she tell her daughter what she used to get up to in bygone days? When her gun tumbles out of the cupboard while they are moving house, memories of former times come flooding back. She has to face the truth: about Jimmy and herself and about the repugnant trade in weapons and children in which she played a part.
By giving her protagonist the same name - a pseudonym - Eva Maria Staal gives the impression that her novel is autobiographical, promoting its credibility. The technique of alternating the memories of the former weapons dealer with the present-day married mother, allows the past to creep into the present, until there is no longer a distinction between the two. The past has become the present.
Staal’s style, in which all superfluous words seem to have been scrapped, resembles that of the American writer Andrew Vachss to a certain degree: she uses short, sometimes extremely short chapters, truncated sentences, and every style technique possible to stimulate rapid reading. This gives this debut an entirely distinctive, recognizable countenance.