Dutch thriller about involuntary prostitution
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One night in the Brussels red light district taxi driver Walter Sevenijns hears an agonizing cry for help. He calls the police, but they do not respond. Hesitantly he steps towards the alley where the cry came from. He throws one last glance over his shoulder and disappears into the dark. His life will never be the same…
A thriller about a Polish woman trapped in a sex club in Brussels against her will, a taxi driver with low self-esteem who wants to do ‘something good’ in this world, a human trafficker who is smart enough to escape from the authorities’ attention and a detective who has to dig deep in order to get grip on the case. Set in the Belgian cities of Brussels and Antwerp and finding its climax in Poland, homeland of the beautiful Izolda Bernarski, without whose plight this story could not be told, Schakels is a fast-paced thriller that gives insight into the methods used by human traffickers preying on women for the sex industry.
That’s what the Dutch thriller Schakels is about. Schakels means shackles. This refers to the opening chapter of the book, when taxi driver Walter Sevenijns sets his eyes on a chained woman in the yard of a Brussels sex club.
Acclaim for Schakels
Renowned Dutch book reviewer Joop Liefaard says:
Schakels is a thriller in which suspense is interwoven with a topical and social theme, that of human trafficking and forced prostitution. A world in which every form of dignity and physical integrity are cut short in a beastly manner.
Nico de Beer's story grips your attention from the start and the suspense is built up well. The atmosphere of the various locations is striking. The reader is swayed between emotions like sympathy and hate, trust and betrayal, contrasts that are expressed well. The denoument is convincing, but when you close the book you realise that, although justice has been done, the atrocities and violent struggle for the likes of Izolda continue. And that is a bitter conclusion.
Schakels is a convincing thriller. It is a well-constructed and well-written and exciting story that evokes many emotions.
Not only is the book an acclaimed thriller because of Nico de Beer's craftsmanship, it also is a true document of social mishaps that seem hard to eradicate.
Bloggerssite DeThriller says:
On the one hand Schakels is rough and without compassion, but on the other hand it shows empathy towards the victims and their loved ones. The story is told from the perspective of various characters and that turns out well. One of the traffickers is portrayed extensively and his callous and amoral attitude provides the book with a dismal touch that fits in nicely. And then there is the somewhat naive taxi driver Walter Sevenijns, who means to do good, but ends up getting into more difficulty than he had anticipated. His vulnerability turns him into a tragic figure, whose fortunes wil not leave the reader untouched. The detectives are credible because of their fallibility, although their portrayal could have been a bit more elaborate.
Schakels consists of three major parts. The first, in which the attention is focussed on taxi driver Walter Sevenijns, is set in Brussels. His farewell letter to his wife, which opens the book, raises many questions and immediately sets the pace in terms of suspense. In the second and the third parts it is all about the two Antwerp detectives Steven Goossens and Kris Van Diemen, who have to take a plane to Poland to crack the case. Unlike many other thrillers it is not about pointing one’s finger to the perpetrator, but more about gathering enough evidence to put him behind bars.
The author has an eye for details and all the story lines are meticulously worked out. In the beginning of the book the dialogues felt a bit stiff, but as the book progressed, this improved.
Nico de Beer has written a successful thriller. It is an original story that is accurate to the smallest details and that drags you into a world that you wish to keep away from as far as you possibly can in real life.
Dutch author Jasper Mikkers says:
Schakels is a tale of suspense. On the internet, the thrillersreadersblog it is said: De Beer knows how to tackle a topical theme in a brilliant manner. But there is more: The style! The author writes short, powerful sentences, is never sentimental, creates characters in a credible way, writes strong dialogues that glow with subdued tension, throws in sharp one-liners. In short: each page is thrilling.
De Perfecte Buren says:
In contrast to many thrillers in which the detective appears on the scene right from the onset, Schakels does not present this character until the one-third mark of the book. It is at that point that a second storyline emerges as detective Steven Goossens tracks down a young Polish migrant worker who is a suspect in a violent incident at the Antwerp railway station.
By investigating an African prostitute who is found wounded in the streets one night, Goossens is set on Izolda’s track. Together with his colleague Van Diemen he travels to Poland to unravel the case.
Nico de Beer has a smooth writing style. Characters and events are well-presented and that is a merit of the author. His language is not complex, which adds to the readability of the book. The intimidating violence that is evidently linked to a subject like forced prostitution is never described explicitly, so there is no deterrent for readers who prefer not to be confronted with this.