Initiation: Amsterdam, ’83 by Daniel Pembrey

I’d like to start off by saying ‘Happy Publication Day’ to Daniel Pembrey for Initiation: Amsterdam, ’83 which is published today by Amazon Publishing. I’m going to tell you more about the book but first, I thought it would be good to hear from Daniel. When his last book, Night Market, featured on my blog, Daniel gave us an introduction to shopping in Amsterdam. This time, he serves up some tasty treats that you can find in the Dutch capital.


Dutch sweet treats for you


Nothing easily compares with Joy Kluver’s scrumptious cookies [of course not, Daniel!] but to mark the occasion of this new Henk van der Pol story, I’ve selected some Dutch treats that may intrigue. A lot of Dutch desserts –  say pannenkoeken (larger thin pancakes)  – are known to us in the UK. So here, I’ve focused on more distinctively local treats, with the help of Mila van Egmond, a wonderful Amsterdam-based photographer who provided the images below:

Oliebollen are spongy and sweet like doughnuts. They are deep-fried, often made with sultanas, and coated with icing sugar. The essence of comfort food, this seasonal temptation is best savoured hot from a street stall alongside champagne / cava / prosecco. Oliebollen are most often consumed in December, especially on New Year’s Eve.

1. Oliebollen_Mila van Egmond
Photo by Mila van Egmond



Poffertjes are eaten year round, but again mostly on fun occasions – at fairs and street parties. They are little fluffy pancakes cooked in special pans. Like oliebollen, poffertjes have a spongy texture and are served with icing sugar, butter and sometimes syrup; they are even more dangerously moreish, so once you start eating them . . .

2. Poffertjes_Mila van Egmond
Photo by Mila van Egmond



Finally, tompouce: cream-filled, squishy and icing-covered like mille-feuille, these sweet delights are nigh impossible to eat elegantly so best not to try. On Koningsdag (King’s Day), the icing is often orange. Dutchies love tompouce. I like it with a cup of strong black koffie but don’t hold back on something stronger still (jenever or a similar spirit), should the mood take you; Van der Pol would approve.

3. Tompouce_Mila van Egmond
Photo by Mila van Egmond


Wow! Those looking amazing. Not sure if it’s good to be looking at them post-Christmas but at least I’m just looking! Thank you Daniel and Mila for sharing these wonderful Dutch treats with us.

But let’s not forget why we’re really here – there’s a book to tell you about. Daniel Pembrey is the absolute master of the novella and his new one is no exception!


The blurb


In autumn 1983, Henk van der Pol is twenty-three years old and just one week out of police training. His dream is to be admitted to the elite detective bureau of Amsterdam’s police force, but he knows he needs to prove himself as a uniformed officer first.

That is, until he is sent to interview witnesses of an audacious kidnapping in the city centre: Alfred Heineken, head of the brewery corporation, has been snatched by shadowy assailants and driven at speed from the scene. Is this really just about a ransom or is there any truth to the rumour that West German terrorists are involved? The case is far beyond van der Pol’s rank but his instincts tell him to do everything in his modest power to solve it—even if it means putting his own life at risk.

From the bestselling author of The Harbour Master, Initiation introduces Daniel Pembrey’s beloved detective as a green young officer at the very start of his career, determined to outwit criminals and his superiors alike, in a first case that could well have been his last.


My review


When you create a character, you have to think about lots of details and age is an important factor. When we first meet Henk van der Pol in The Harbour Master, we’re made aware that Henk is not far off retirement age for the Dutch police force. In Night Market, he’s changed his job a bit but all his experience comes into play for his new role. For the latest instalment, Daniel Pembrey has created a prequel and takes us back to 1983 when Henk first becomes a police officer. Initiation: Amsterdam, ’83 is based on a true crime from that year – the kidnapping of Freddy Heineken, the CEO of the Dutch brewing company. Using careful research, Pembrey has fused fact with fiction very successfully. Henk is a rookie officer who’s sent initially to the scene. He’s side-lined when the seriousness of the incident is revealed but that doesn’t stop Henk searching for the truth and Heineken. In doing so, he meets a young, ambitious journalist – Petra – who’s equally determined to find the truth.

Henk’s age isn’t the only thing that’s different in this novella. Amsterdam in 1983 was very different to how it is now. This comes across well in Pembrey’s descriptions of a city in desperate need of redevelopment and regeneration – ‘The row of houses to my right stood almost in the shadow of the Rijksmuseum. They were grand and solid on the outside, yet dark within – derelict and decaying. Earmarked for redevelopment of some kind. Demolition even.’ Definitely not the shiny Amsterdam we know today.

We meet Henk’s friends and possible enemies and of course, we meet Petra. As it is a novella, the pace is fast and Daniel Pembrey has managed to pack a lot in. It reminds me a lot of Endeavour, the prequel for Inspector Morse, in the way that we seen Henk’s early life, knowing how it’s going to turn out in the future. I do hope that Daniel will write more of the young Henk van der Pol as he is just as fascinating in 1983 as he is in later years.

I’d like to thank Daniel Pembrey for letting me read an advanced copy. You can buy Initiation: Amsterdam, ’83 here.


The author

Daniel Pembrey author photo_new

Daniel Pembrey grew up in Nottinghamshire beside Sherwood Forest. He studied history at Edinburgh University and received an MBA from INSEAD business school in France. Daniel then spent over a decade working in America and more recently Luxembourg, coming to rest in Amsterdam and London — dividing his time now between these two great maritime cities.

He is the author of the Henk van der Pol detective series and several short thriller stories, and he contributes articles to publications including The Financial Times, The Times and The Field. In order to write The Harbour Master, he spent several months living in the docklands area of East Amsterdam, counting De Druif bar as his local.

To receive occasional email updates and offers of free exclusive content, please sign up at Daniel is also on Twitter, @DPemb.


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