The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey


I went to a James Bond concert the other week and as well as playing Bond themes, they also played iconic tunes from successful crime shows – Cagney & Lacey, Miss Marple, Poirot, Hill Street Blues  and The Bill (yes, really, but the composer was playing guitar in the orchestra). One tune not included was Van der Valk. Having just listened to the theme tune again on YouTube (it’s called Eye Level in case you’re interested), I’m not surprised. It’s far too jolly and upbeat. I have a vague recollection of Van der Valk wearing a brown jacket but that’s all I remember. So I don’t have a vast knowledge about Dutch police officers but I suspect that Henk van der Pol isn’t your usual copper. Close to retirement, he isn’t worn down by the job, sitting on his laurels until he can escape. Instead, his sense of justice is keener than ever before and with age, comes the tenacity to take on anyone, no matter who they are – local gangs, corrupt officers or even politicians. Whether investigating murder, stolen paintings or the kidnap of a politican, Henk gives his all – much to the despair of his put upon wife, Petra.

Daniel Pembrey lived in Amsterdam when he wrote The Harbour Master and you can tell it was more than just a short research trip. Even from the opening line, ‘There’s a spot down by the harbour, with bicycle seats mounted on bollards like fishing perches, where you can’t help but feel alert and vigilant’, you get the sense of seeing the city through Henk’s eyes. But don’t be fooled. This isn’t tourist Amsterdam (although he does go there too). It’s clear that Pembrey stepped off the well-trod tourist path to create an authentic Amsterdam. He doesn’t stop there though. Brussels and The Hague are two more destinations that Henk visits in pursuit of the truth.

Pembrey also links in to Dutch culture and history, particularly in reference to the kidnap of Freddy Heineken in 1983. It seems as though Pembrey has packed a lot in but that’s not surprising. The Harbour Master was originally three linked novellas (Pembrey is a master at them) but No Exit Press have brought them together to make one novel. But thankfully, this isn’t the end of Henk. There’s more to come in the form of a new Henk van der Pol book – Night Market.

The Harbour Master is available to buy now on Kindle – click here  – and will be out in paperback on 10th Nov and can be pre-ordered here

I’d like to thank Daniel Pembrey and No Exit Press for an ARC of the book. I wasn’t even asked to review in return but am more than happy to do so.

If you want to find out more about Daniel and his other books, then check out his website It’s worth it to see the cover page alone – beautiful picture of the Amsterdam skyline!

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