The Dinner Club by Saskia Noort

The cover really didn’t call me, but fortunately the author’s name rang a bell and the title suggested interesting possibilities. Spotting the logo of the Bitter Lemon Press helped too. I picked the book up for a closer look.

Here’s what it said on the back cover:

“A subversive concoction of greed, lust, and violence set in genteel suburbia.”

“Imagine Desperate Housewives scripted by Patricia Highsmith. That’s The Dinner Club.”

Now that’s how to sell a book!

Karen and her husband Michel had a wonderful life: a happy marriage, two lovely daughters, successful career, and a lovely home in the heart of Amsterdam. But they wanted something different. And so they moved out to the suburbs. A lovely place, with big houses, wide roads, safe places for the children to play.

But Karen struggled. Michel commuted back to the city while she worked from home. She felt isolated and bored.

In time though she did make friends. First with a woman she meet on the school run and then with her group of friends. Karen is the only one of the group who works. The others are supported by their successful husbands and spend their days, shopping, lunching, gossiping, playing tennis. Classic ladies who lunch.

And so the “dinner club” is formed:, a group of five women who meet regularly and whose husbands do business together.

The story open with a house ablaze. One of the group’s husband is killed in the fire. It must have been a tragic accident. Or suicide. He had been depressed: business problems, and maybe marital problems too.

And then there is another death. A woman falls from a hotel balcony. It must have been a tragic accident. Or suicide.

But Karen wonders if there has been foul play. She finds herself ostracised by her friends: the group reforms, but now Karen is on the outside. Not one of them.

And she finds that she must make a choice. To look for answers, to seek the justice that she believes her dead friends must have. Or to accept what her friends are saying and maybe, just maybe she will be accepted back into the group.

Saskia Noort constructs a clever plot that moves along at a brisk pace with just enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. She has the talent, very useful for a mystery writer, to make you wonder, and change your mind back and forth.

All of that is balanced with a lovely satire of those who value money, status and appearances rather too highly.

Her characters are sometimes a little sketchy, but in a strange way that is right. Their strength is as a group, and the scenes when they interact are the strongest and utterly believable. I probably wouldn’t want to meet them, but they were fascinating to watch.

Karen herself is a flawed heroine. But it was easy to understand and empathise with her, even when I was sure that she was doing the wrong thing and that things could go terribly wrong. That brought everything together.

That story ends as it began, with high drama. Case closed.

The Dinner Club was a big hit in the Netherlands and I can understand why. It strikes a chord.

I’m interested now to see what else Saskia Noort has written. And, happily, I already have a couple of other books from the Bitter Lemon Press to hand.

Translated by Paul Vincent

8 responses

    • I’m glad it’s not just me! Apart from being dark and unappealing the cover just doesn’t fit. Which is a pity, becaue yes, it is a page turner. You’d like it!

  1. I enjoyed this book, but agree totally about the cover. I particularly liked the character of the female detective. I had previously read the author’s other book which has been translated into English, Back to the Coast, which I think is better. It is very different to this one, though also with a young woman protagonist. Also Bitter Lemon. I believe there is an new Saskia Noort coming out in translation next year.

    • I read this a while ago and the detective slipped my mind, but I do agree with you. There was enough about her to be interesting without distracting from the main plot. And thank you for the information about Saskia Noort – I’ll be looking out for copies.

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