City of wonderful art, architecture, canals, food, history…and mysteries!
When I sat down to plot The Corpse with the Garnet Face, I knew it would be set in Amsterdam. It couldn’t take place anywhere else. The city, and all that it means and represents, is truly a character in the tale.
The titular corpse (no spoilers here – he’s dead on page one!) is a man who, when young, left his Swedish home in search of the unique Dutch light that had captivated his favourite artist, Van Gogh. He never returned to either his homeland or his family. At the man’s death, his nephew, Bud Anderson, is called upon to undertake the man’s dying wish. How can Bud refuse and how can he refuse to take his beloved wife, Cait Morgan, with him on his quest? Cait unearths long-buried secrets as she helps her husband figure out whether his late Uncle Jonas was, indeed, a bad man – as Bud’s mother insists – or whether he was the meaningful “glue” that held together a group of art fans and amateur painters who called themselves The Group of Seven.
Beyond the fact that Amsterdam is known worldwide for its association with Van Gogh, it’s also the place where myriad artists, over the centuries, have come to study and create great art. The galleries and museums there would be like pollen to a bee for a man like Bud’s late uncle whose life was filled with art in every imaginable way, right down to his being a night watchman for the paintings he loved the most.
I adore the city – its architecture, history, cobbled streets, wonderfully cosmopolitan population and lifestyle, not to mention the food and the beer. I don’t like the cyclists very much though; they are both silent and deadly!
I’ve spent a great deal of time in Amsterdam. In my previous life when I owned and operated a post-graduate marketing college and trained non-marketing managers to become marketing managers, I travelled a great deal and worked in many countries. My client in Amsterdam was Nissan Europe, and they contracted me in for a week at a time, up to six times a year, for half a dozen years. I always added time to my visits to be able to indulge myself by visiting the Concertgebouw, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the flower markets… You get the picture. I have good friends there, with whom I would stay. One of them ran the (in)famous Bimhuis jazz club, where I also spent a fair amount of time, and her partner would transport me about the city on the back of his bicycle – a terrifying, if exhilarating experience.
The first time I saw the city was in 1981. I spent six weeks peeling bulbs and living in a tent in “bulb country” (students will do almost anything to earn money in the summer!) and needed an urban break. And that’s when I fell in love at first sight with Amsterdam. Beyond all the time I spent working there, it’s also the place where my husband and I got engaged, so it will always be dear to my heart for that reason, too.