I am always suspicious of a book that has “The International Bestseller” emblazoned it its cover, as The Tulip Virus does. And I think I had reason to be suspicious of the moniker on this book, as I didn’t find it to be worth of international bestseller status.
That said, it was as fun and interesting read, good for the end-of-year-holidays sort of read. It is a thriller, but for once does not have an alcoholic, chain-smoking detective who slums around the back streets and miraculously manages to solve the murder by talking to a few bums. This time, the one who solves the mystery is the nephew of the murdered man who is a mild mannered artist.
The story alternates between two different setting and time zones – Holland in the mid-seventeenth century and London in 2007 – and centres around the rarest tulip bulb of all, the Semper Augustus (great name for a flower bulb; sounds a like a Roman senator). Just as Wouter Winckel is brutally murdered in Holland centuries ago because of this bulb, so is Frank Schoeller in present-day London. Frank’s nephew, Alec, takes it upon himself to solve his murder with the help of two friends. And so the story goes, with the mystery unravelling, a bit of danger involved, a bit of love and sexual intrigue and a satisfying ending.
The only aspect I didn’t like in the book was the quasi-religious aspect of Frank’s beliefs, which drove him to be so fanatical about the tulip bulb, but I glossed over that and just enjoyed the thriller side of the story. I also liked reading about the tulip mania that hit Holland in the seventeenth century and seeing how human greed has not changed over the centuries.