Sugar Animal

A glimpse inside the mind of a serial killer

In 'Sugar Animal', Anjet Daanje draws a shockingly human portrait of a serial killer. Rutger Jaspers lives in a rowhouse. He is the sales manager at a sugar factory, he loves his wife, the music of the popular Dutch singer Marco Borsato and having a tidy home. He seems perfectly ordinary.

Original title
Anjet Daanje

With no premeditated plan, he murders a random woman in a random house – a heinous act which gives him a taste for more. Before long he turns into an animal, egged on by the media’s fevered speculation about the identity of this cold-blooded killer. He murders one woman after another – women that look just like his wife, Mireille. People start referring to him as ‘the spotless butcher’.

For thriller aficionados with a strong stomach, Anjet Daanje’s Sugar Animal is a must-read. (...) With this remarkably accomplished book, she is once again a serious contender for the Gouden Strop (‘Golden Noose’) crime fiction award.


Sliced-off nipples, a casserole topped with fingertips – the ‘spotless butcher’ takes pleasure in the torture he inflicts. He wallows in self-pity and blames everyone else. Once he gets the hang of killing, we start learning more about what drives him. Flashbacks to his troubled childhood and scenes from his home life with Mireille reveal his bad temper as well as his vulnerability.

As the story unfolds, the reader begins to understand how things spiralled out of control the way they did – disturbingly, you even find yourself empathising with him in moments, as Daanje really puts you inside his head. It’s this psychological complexity that makes Sugar Animal such an accomplished novel. Jasper is fully in control of himself, his actions and their consequences – at least, that’s what he thinks. When, after his eleventh victim, he kills his own wife, to the outside world he looks like a poor lonely widower. No one wants to believe he is the one who committed all the gruesome murders.

The discontent and existential anxiety of the protagonist is the cri de cœur of a desperately lonely, selfish man who feels victimised by the world. Sugar Animal is an intelligent and haunting book.


Anjet Daanje published this book in 2001, long before she broke through on the international stage with Het lied van ooievaar en dromedaris (The Song of Stork and Dromedary) and De herinnerde soldaat (The Remembered Soldier). For fans of these historical novels, Sugar Animal might come as a surprise, since it shows a different side of her as a writer. But attentive readers will pick up on a recurring theme in Daanje’s work: characters that choose to or are forced to put on a mask and act their way through life.

Publishing details
Suikerbeest (2001, 2023)
168 pages
41,700 words
Sample translation available

Anton Scheepstra,

Evi Hoste,

Rights sold
De herinnerde soldaat (The Remembered Soldier): Bulgaria (Aquarius), Germany (Matthes & Seitz), France (Gallimard), USA (New Vessel Press). Het lied van ooievaar en dromedaris [The Song of Stork and Dromedary]: Czech Republic (Bourdon), Denmark (Gyldendal), France (Gallimard), Germany (Matthes & Seitz), Italy (Neri Pozza), Norway (Bonnier), Spain (Lumen), Sweden (Bonniers).

Anjet Daanje
Anjet Daanje (b. 1965) writes novels, short stories and screenplays. Her breakthrough novel 'De herinnerde soldaat' (The Remembered Soldier) won the 2020 F. Bordewijk Prize and the Best Book of Groningen Prize and was longlisted for the 2020 Libris Literature Prize.
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