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by Saskia Noort
Bitter Lemon Press, January 2007
278 pages
9.99 GBP
ISBN: 1904738206

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Karen van de Made seemingly has it all a handsome partner, two cute kids, a creative job which allows her to work from home, and a nice new house in a village somewhere outside of Amsterdam. It's taken a while to make friends, but now she and Michel are part of the Dinner Club, a group of four 30-something couples.

It sounds like the perfect life, but it's all turned on its head when Evert, one of the group, dies in a house fire which nearly kills his wife Babette and children. It must be a tragic accident, as Evert has had mental health problems. But then Hanneke, the group's volatile presence, falls off a hotel balcony. Did she jump or was she pushed?

THE DINNER CLUB is described as a literary thriller from Dutch writer Saskia Noort. I'm not quibbling with the thriller bit, but I'm not sure it counts as literary and I realise that's a can of worms not to be opened in the genre fiction field!

The book is more than competent, and I'd certainly be interested in reading translations of Noorts' other books. But there are two fairly serious problems that stop it from being an unqualified success.

It's one of those books where the action flips backwards and forwards in time at a fairly brisk pace. The problem is, though, that I was often several paragraphs into a chapter and really not sure when it was taking place in the time scale.

The other hitch for me was that old chestnut about whether or not you care for the characters. The book is told firmly from Karen's point of view, and she's a well-drawn character. I just wasn't that fussed about what happened to her there was too much of the spoiled middle-class idle wife there for me to feel an attachment to her.

I have to admit I found it difficult to remember who was hitched to whom, and again, none of the supporting cast was the kind you'd want to be friends with. And the persistent policewoman Dorien is fairly obnoxious as well.

THE DINNER CLUB is definitely worth a read, and it's another strong addition to Bitter Lemon Press's roster of international crime fiction. But you may file it under 'Good, but . . .'

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, January 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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