The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten

Publisher:  Harlequin MIRA
To Be Released:  October 29, 2013
Pages:  368
Taken from the Preface - We have no milk, no bread, no potatoes - just rotten peels. The boys now have to go far into the fields to pull frozen tulip bulbs from the ground. We grind the pulp and make thin soup and watery porridges from them. They are bitter, practically inedible, but we choke them down because otherwise we will starve. - Anonymous Dutch housewife, circa 1944.

It was one of the great ironies of the Dutch occupation - to forage and choke down their national flower to stave off starvation.

Houston, Texas - 1980 - Nora de Jong, a pediatric surgeon, was filled with contentment. She and her mother, Anneke, shared the love and care of her six month old daughter, Rose. Life seemed to be perfect until the day she returned from work to find her mother murdered and her baby missing. The dead body of an unknown man was on the floor, clutching a German Luger in his hand. And it seemed the killer had an accomplice who took Rose. Why was Rose taken and there was no ransom asked?

Nora finds a metal box filled with secret documents that bring up many questions about her life and the lives of her parents. After a futile investigation by the local police, Nora decides to take matters into her own hands. It was better than staying in Houston, terrified and frantic. She goes to Amsterdam to try and put the missing pieces together about the family's seemingly dark and unsettled history - a history that would take her back to the days of WWII and a city under Nazi occupation.

Nora's parents, Anneke and Hans de Jong were married in Holland shortly after the war, and immigrated to the States from the Netherlands. Sixty year old Anneke, was a housewife, and a warm, loving person. She spent all of her time taking care of baby Rose. Hans, Nora's father, had died a few years earlier, and had been a literature professor at a local university. Her parents never talked about their life in Holland. Was Anneke really a Dutch Nazi? Had she killed a Jewish man, Abram Rosen, and then fled the country and changed her name?

A strong, but rather sinister character is Amarisa, a very wealthy Jewish woman. She had been in diamond trade for almost forty years and had forged relationships with people in high places. Amsterdam was the largest diamond center in the world. During the Dutch occupation, Amarisa's family was arrested and thrown on a train, and shipped to Mauthausen. The entire family was gassed, but Amarisa and her brother made it out. But Amarisa had been raped and her face was slit from her lip to ear. Amarisa really adds to the storyline, filling it with a crescendo of suspense.

Who was Abram Rosen and was his family still alive? Was Nora's mother really an NSB-er - a reviled organization of the Dutch Nazis? What was the motive behind Anneke's murder and the kidnapping of Rose? A lot of questions with an intriguing storyline.

This is definitely a favorite for 2013! The book is a rich blend of history, suspense and romance and will absolutely devour you from the beginning to the satisfying conclusion. The author manages to weave together a tale of family secrets with meticulous detail and includes an entourage of fascinating characters. Most definitely a 5 star novel by an incredible author. 



I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions shared in this review are my own.