Review: Briefgeheim by Jan Terlouw

Briefgeheim
Jan Terlouw
(cover art by Dirk van der Maat)
Lemniscaat 1973
€14.95

Book review | Briefgeheim by Jan Terlouw | 5 stars

★★★

Synopsis (English translation below)*

Eva is de ruzies van haar ouders zat. Met haar vrienden Jackie en Thomas bedenkt ze een plan om hen eens flink te laten schrikken. Ze gaat een nachtje verdwijnen. Maar dan loopt alles anders dan ze dacht. Tegen wil en dank komt Eva een spionage-netwerk op het spoor dat er niet voor terugdeinst zijn vijanden uit de weg te ruimen…

Eva is fed up with the fights between her parents. Together with her friends Jackie and Thomas, she thinks of a plan to scare them. She’s going to disappear for a night. But then, not everything goes as planned. Unwittingly, she discovers a spy-network whose people aren’t opposed to getting rid of enemies… 

Review

Terlouw’s writing is very inviting, it draws you in. The book starts off quite dull, with a description of the characters. Not the most exciting way to start a book. The way it’s written however and the details Terlouw decides to share about the characters makes that you immediately want to keep reading.

The character are, after all, interesting. A girl who’s often scared and not such a daredevil, with a friend who’s the exact opposite. And the little brother of the friend, who throws rocks like no other. It is such a strange way to describe the characters at first, that you just have to keep reading. That is exactly what I did.

Most of the story is realistic. Some smaller and bigger inconveniences of life are added to ensure this. There’s a substitute teacher, because the regular teacher is sick, or fights between Eva’s parents. All of this makes it seem so normal that you wouldn’t expect anything strange to happen, besides the fact that you know something is going to happen, because it was in the synopsis on the back of the book.

An adventure that’s both scary and exciting is what’s going to happen. It’s done splendidly. All kinds of details are added to confuse the reader and the characters in the book, eventually though it is all figured out. I think this was one of the most complicated children’s mysteries I’ve read. Especially because there are some red herrings, which usually are left out of children’s mysteries.

What’s kind of cool too, is that this was once contemporary. Mostly, it can still be seen that way; there’s not much that really indicates that this happened in the 1970s. However, that at the same time almost makes it historical fiction, as it’s over 40(!) years old. It doesn’t read like that though, this could’ve happened just yesterday.

This book has been translated to Italian, and Spanish. According to the Letterenfonds, there should also be translations in Afrikaans, Albanian, Basque, Galician, and Icelandic.

*Freely translated from Dutch

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