Book report: Suzanne Vermeer ‘Noorderlicht’
Noorderlicht is the last thriller by Dutch author Paul Goeken, who died in 2011. Suzanne Vermeer was the pseudonym Paul Goeken used to write his thrillers. Meanwhile, the name is still used for new thrillers. For her thirtieth birthday, Kim goes on a surprise trip together with some friends in Noorderlicht. She has planned everything well and is convinced that it will be a fantastic trip. And everyone enjoys the journey, too, until one morning they find two of their group dead and discover the killer in their group.
- Main characters
- Symbols and motifs
- Title statement and book cover
- Structure and perspective / way of telling
- Time and place
- Original title: northern Lights
- Author: Suzanne Vermeer
- First print: 2012
- Number of pages: 248
- ISBN: 978 94 005 0043 3
Kim wants to celebrate her 30th birthday in a special way by going on a trip to Norway with her brother Eric, some friends, Marieke, Martin and Celine, and her boyfriend Brian.
Eric’s wife, Edith, is concerned about the trip. Not only because of the children who are separated from their dad for the first time for so long. But the tour group consists of different characters, making it unpredictable how the journey will go. And then there is Eric’s diabetes, which is controlled by a strict diet. Edith wonders whether that will also work when traveling.
For Celine, one of Kim’s friends, it is very convenient that she can be away from her family for a week. Because nowadays there are many tensions between her and her husband Bart. But she also has something that concerns Kim and Eric. She has discovered that one of her clients has collaborated with their father Willem’s company. And because of William’s death, that customer had made a big profit. Celine has the feeling that Willem’s death is no coincidence and that she has to tell everything she has found to Willem’s children.
Martin has another problem. His boss has given him a dilemma, either he will lose his job or he can take over the bar. But Martin doesn’t have the money, so he has to find a solution quickly if he wants to avoid becoming unemployed.
Ruben turns to his brother Brian, Kim’s boyfriend, for help when he’s in debt due to a wrong drug deal. Brian promises to provide the $ 25,000 and reaches out to Kim’s brother, Eric, hoping to borrow the money. Eric refuses, because he doesn’t trust Brian and is convinced that Brian is only interested in Kim’s money and is therefore not a suitable friend for his gullible sister. Eric has lost a lot of money himself, with the investments of him and his sister, but he has not informed Kim about this because he is convinced that everything will be okay.
When she arrives in Norway, Kim wants to keep as much secret as possible, but she tells the company that they will use snowmobiles and dog sleds as transport. Celine hates the idea that they are going on a survival trip and she does not hold back from showing this.
The group enjoys their first evening with an extensive meal. Kim immediately notices that it clicks well between Céline and Martin. She has to admit that she’s never seen her friend this flirtatious. Marieke has more trouble with the presence of Celine, because she is considered Kim’s best friend, simply because they have known each other for a longer time. While she feels that she and Kim understand each other much better.
Their guide is Sverre, a passionate man who quickly gets to know nature. The group is enthusiastic after their first introduction to the snowmobiles and is curious what the rest of the trip will give. Kim’s birthday is well celebrated in the evening. But the apotheosis comes when she proposes to Brian. Everyone is surprised but also happy for the couple, even Eric manages to respond enthusiastically.
After the pleasant evening with the necessary alcohol, the group wakes up and discover that Sverre and Celine are not present. At first they don’t look for it, but after a while Martin and Eric decide to see where they can be. They discover their dead bodies in an abyss. Everyone assumes that it is an accident and they decide to go to civilization as soon as possible.
Marieke wonders whether it really is an accident. Because Sverre had told them several stories about the other guide Jonas, which they had met the day before, and they were not positive at all. Jonas had even threatened Sverre. They decide to stay together and hope to get somewhere with the dogsleds as soon as possible. But without a range, they can’t use a GPS which makes things worse.
The five departs tense. A little later, Kim falls and loses her sleigh. She tries to catch up with the dogs and the group, but that is wasted effort. When Jonas comes by in a dog sled, she can hide just in time. A little later, she is picked up by her friends, who were worried when they saw the empty dog sled.
Kim informs them about Jonas and the group decides to leave again, but they soon find themselves walking in circles. At that moment they see Jonas and try to react as normally as possible. Eric tells him what happened to Sverre and Celine and Jonas suggests they go to a log cabin. They know they have no other option now that it’s snowing and it’s getting dark.
Once arrived, Marieke confronts Jonas with what Sverre had told about him. But soon Jonas convinces them that he has done nothing with Celine nor with Sverre. But then Eric discovers he’s lost some of his pills, which could be a perfect murder weapon. If a non-diabetic takes the pills, they will become disoriented and may even develop balance disorders and hallucinations, which could eventually lead to an abyss. Because of this, there is a good chance that one of them is the murderer.
While watching his video recordings, Eric discovers in the background of an image that Marieke is entering and leaving the man’s tent. He shows the images to Martin and Kim to make sure he got it right. His sister confronts Marieke with what she has seen, but Marieke denies everything until she realizes that nobody believes her anymore. In a panic, she injures Kim and Brian with a knife and then walks out into the night. The next day Marieke has not yet returned and the group fears that she has not survived the cold. They decide to go ahead and notify the police.
In the Netherlands, the friends learn that Marieke had effectively died of hypothermia. Eric still cannot understand that Marieke had killed two people because she was jealous of the friendship that Celine and Kim had. He is also reminded of a conversation with Celine in which she had told him she had discovered something and wanted to discuss this with him and Kim during the trip. But it never happened.
Eric thinks it must be a business thing as it concerns him and Kim. Through the work of Celine he comes to the details of her new customer Brandsma. Eric plays bluff poker and learns everything. Brandsma had discovered that Willem, Eric’s father, wanted to sideline him and had brought in Peter Koedam, Marieke’s father, to solve this problem. And so Peter had sabotaged Willem’s plane, causing him to crash.
Celine had discovered this and Brandsma learned that she was a friend of Kim and they were traveling together. So he had to intervene before it was too late. He blackmailed Marieke. If she solved the problem with Celine, he wouldn’t betray her father. Eric promises to keep this between them on the condition that he gets the share of money from his father.
In the evening Kim, Eric, Brian and Martin get together. Kim misses her friends, but is also happy that Brian and Eric finally get along well. In fact, he wants to borrow the money Brian needs for Ruben. And Kim wants to invest in Martin’s bar. She sees herself as a café manager.
He is Kim’s big brother and is diabetic. Eric is a lawyer, married and has two children. Their parents have passed away.
He is Kim’s new boyfriend. He is a broker of Surinamese-Dutch descent. He has a sister, Kekeli, and a brother, Ruben. Ruben is in constant trouble.
She can be very depressed and lacks persistence.
She is a friend of Kim and works in a natural products store, where they met. She is a quiet, serious and sensitive woman in her early twenties. Marieke has a bad relationship with her father, who is very materialistic and only thinks about money.
Celine is an attractive woman, who radiates self-confidence and has not fallen on her mouth. She is thirty years old and Kim’s best friend, they have known each other since high school. Celine is married to Bart and together they have a two-year-old daughter, Hannah. She is a career woman who works as a commercial director.
He is a thirty-seven-year-old bartender, so he is used to bringing atmosphere to a group and has a lot of people knowledge. He has a five year old daughter with his ex-wife.
Symbols and motifs
Everyone has their secret and tries to keep it to themselves during the trip. One secret is also a lot more innocent than the other. But it does show that there is no trust within the group or among the friends.
Martin and Celine quickly become attracted to each other. But Celine has made up her mind that she wouldn’t commit adultery as long as her relationship with her husband Bart still stands a chance. She can have fun and she plans to, but she knows her limits.
Kim is enjoying the journey and taking it all in. She feels honored to know this group of people and to be able to share this journey with them.
Title statement and book cover
The title Noorderlicht is a reference to the trip in Norway where the company is spoiled by nature. For example, they get to see the northern lights. The book cover shows a winter landscape in which a woman walks with the northern lights in the background.
Structure and perspective / way of telling
The book consists of 248 pages, which are divided into 60 chapters. The story presents the views of Eric, Kim, Brian, Celine, Martin, Edith, Marieke and Sverre, written in the third person.
Everyone has their secrets.
Time and place
The story is set in the present in Rotterdam and Norway.
The book is easy to read, but it takes a long time for the tension to enter the story and when it finally comes it goes very quickly and it is not worked out nicely, so that you as a reader remain a bit hungry. Sometimes the plot is even a bit predictable. The characters are also all fairly flat, without any depth. The book is nice as a holiday reading.