Third Wadden thriller by Mathijs Deen. ‘Twice a day the sea erases physical traces. It’s an ideal crime scene.”

Third Wadden thriller by Mathijs Deen. ‘Twice a day the sea erases physical traces. It’s an ideal crime scene.”
Third Wadden thriller by Mathijs Deen. ‘Twice a day the sea erases physical traces. It’s an ideal crime scene.”

Mathijs Deen (61) is a writer with his own genre: Wadden thrillers. In terms of content, his novels about murder cases on the Wadden Islands are highly appreciated. A TV adaptation is in the works.

“Can’t that boy write crime novels?” asked the German publisher in response to the novella. The Lightship by Mathijs Deen, about the Texel crew of a floating lighthouse. The author immediately said no to the request, crime is not his genre. That same night he changed his mind. “I would be crazy to accept such an offer from the country of… Tatort and Derrick to reject? Moreover, this happened at a time when corona had paralyzed everything: I wasn’t going anywhere anyway. And it was for the German market. If things went wrong, no one in the Netherlands needed to know.”

The Dutchman , about the taciturn Liewe Cupido of the Bundespolizei who never goes out without his dog Vos, was anything but a flop. The story about the murder of a mudflat hiker also appeared in the Netherlands, just like its successor The Diver . Both books were in the running for the Golden Noose. The publisher stuck the label ‘waddentriller’ on it. Deen, with a laugh: “I would never have thought of that myself. But it works like crazy.”

The Savior

Now is number three, The Savior , were published in which a half-decomposed skeleton is found in a life jacket. Traditionally, it was released first on the German market. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote: ‘Deen tells the story as usual, confidently, comprehensively, from varying perspectives, without too much fixation on his researcher, with a good sense of the peculiarities of the world between Texel and Flensburg.’

Deen has carefully built up his Wadden inspector Liewe. “I decided that it had to be a Dutch person working in Germany. The child of a German ecologist and a Dutch fisherman. There is already tension there. Liewe grew up on Texel, but was coincidentally born in Germany because his mother stayed in a spa there. His father told him that this makes him not a real islander. A bad move, I think. While typing I thought: Jan Cupido has drowned. I was done with him.”

Drowning man

The mysterious death of his father keeps the inspector busy in the third crime novel. He initially leaves the case of the drowning man to colleagues, Liewe wants to speak to former colleagues of Jan Cupido on Texel. The Savior was the intended conclusion to the Wadden thriller series, but while writing Deen discovered that a fourth part will follow. “Characters sometimes run away with you.”

There is hardly a speck of blood to be found in the thrillers: Deen is reluctant to describe the crime itself. “I have sometimes said that the murder is a side issue, but that is of course not true. My first book is about competition, the second about fathers, sons and revenge. And The Savior about guilt and silence. A crime creates an environment in which people really show themselves, it is a kind of magnifying glass on the soul.”

The Wadden thrillers have already been called the Dutch answer to ‘Scandi-noir’. There’s something in it, the author thinks. “Writers from Scandinavia have the great advantage of the overwhelming backdrop of nature. We also have such a wilderness with the Wadden. There is a line between the mainland and what is on the other side of the dike. There seems to be a different reality there, with different laws. Who is the boss? No longer the clock, the time, but the tide. And there is another contrast, that between big nature and small people. That really puts things into perspective.”

Freer feeling

Tukker from Amsterdam has a deep-rooted love for the Wadden Sea region, which he wrote in his non-fiction bestseller The Wadden described history in a poetic way. “As a child I visited Vlieland a lot. We rent an apartment on Texel through my wife’s work. Schiermonnikoog turned out to contain a wealth of stories. I feel freer on the Dutch islands than on the German ones, where stricter rules apply and you come across signs saying ‘danger to life’. I now know a place on every Wadden Island where I experience total surrender to nature.” And such a location is perfect for a thriller. “Twice a day the sea erases physical traces. It’s an ideal crime scene.”

An international producer has now purchased the film rights to turn the thrillers into a miniseries. With a German-Dutch cast and crew, which is of course reminiscent of the Swedish-Danish hit TheBridge . “Very exciting, discussions about the first film are now being held,” says Deen.


Readers feel like taking the ferry as soon as possible, although the Wadden have become very popular. Deen: “Many islands have been flooded in recent years. In the past, as a resident you had to be able to withstand the isolation. You live a bit like on a ship, with the same faces. Nowadays you also have to be able to deal with the hustle and bustle. Recently a man on Texel spoke to me because my dog ​​was running loose in what he saw as a nature reserve. He started swearing profusely: ‘Fuck off to the mainland’. I notice that there is a lot of disappointment and aggression among people who consider it their place. And it’s already such an angry time. But writer Jac P. Thijsse once said: ‘The islands are a treasure for which we are all responsible, not just the islanders’. And I think so too.”

Title The Savior

Author Mathijs Deen

Publisher Alphabet Publishers

Price 22.99 euros (320 pages)

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Wadden thriller Mathijs Deen day sea erases physical traces ideal crime scene


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