Dutch Review
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For some reason—perhaps because I grew up in a small suburban town, where the worst crime we ever experienced was the occasional TPing of the big oak trees in our front yard—I’ve always had a fascination with gangster stories. So I couldn’t resist picking up a copy of Teri Woods’s Dutch. Unfortunately, though, I soon discovered that this character-driven crime thriller is even less thrilling than yet another night of cruising the strip in my old Volkswagen.

Dutch documents the rise of the notorious young criminal Bernard “Dutch” James. Raised by a single mother on the streets of Newark, New Jersey, Dutch began his life of crime at an early age. He knew what he wanted, and he wouldn’t let anyone get in his way.

But now—for the second time in his still-young life—the ruthless criminal finds himself facing a box full of jurors who are sure to convict him. And if they find him guilty this time, there’s no way he’s ever getting out of prison alive. But while District Attorney Anthony Jacobs is determined to put him away for good, Dutch has no intention of going back to prison.

Through a series of flashbacks, told from the perspective of Dutch’s friends, rivals, and business associates, Dutch paints a portrait of a man who’s good to those who are good to him (and those who can offer him something of value) but deadly to anyone who tries to get in his way. Unfortunately, though, there’s very little to differentiate Dutch from any other notorious criminal. He grew up poor and powerless, and he decided to do everything in his power to change that. It’s the same old story—and it’s definitely been done better.

Though she often shares her characters’ thoughts, author Teri Woods still keeps readers at a distance. Dutch may be a character-driven novel, but the character development is surprisingly shallow—and we get to know very little about why Dutch is the way he is (or why we should even care).

Meanwhile, because the story focuses more on the character than on the action—and because the action is related through short snippets of memories—there’s very little suspense. In fact, it’s pretty slow going until the end, when Dutch’s style finally shines through.

Still, the most frustrating thing about Dutch is Woods’s distracting writing style. The harsh, slang-laced urban language, while realistic, often makes it tough to read—and the awkward, repetitive style makes it even more so. The dialogue usually follows the same monotonous formula: quotation, followed by “he said,” followed by an -ing clause. And the characters’ internal monologue is often redundant. (For example: “He definitely regretted not killing O’Neal when he had the chance. Yeah, I should have killed him when I had the chance, Dutch agreed to himself.”)

Dutch is a crime thriller that’s lacking in thrills. Without a real hero to root for, you’ll likely find yourself struggling to keep going—and although the sequel-ready conclusion is intriguing, it’s just not worth the effort.

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