‘Judas’ exposes harrowing family life of crime boss


Astrid Holleeder had a choice to make. She could continue living as a virtual slave to her brother, Willem Holleeder, or she could risk her life and help the Dutch police take him down. She chose the latter. Written from her place in hiding, “Judas” is Astrid’s story of deception, turmoil and — ultimately — courage.

Willem “Wim” Holleeder is best known for his rap sheet. Involved in the 1983 kidnapping of the CEO of Heineken brewing company, he kept a tight reign over his family both from within and outside of prison. While Astrid avoided criminal life and became a lawyer, Wim forced her into the position of his confidant, legal adviser, chauffer and messenger. For decades Astrid led a precarious existence, wanting nothing to do with the threats that her brother forced her to relay, yet knowing he possessed the connections to have enemies killed over even the slightest of betrayals.

“Judas” adds history and emotion to a story previously reserved for news broadcasts and police reports. Astrid takes readers into her childhood home and paints a grisly picture of her and her siblings’ distorted upbringing. Her account then turns to her adulthood and eventually moves to her time serving as a double agent in efforts to put her brother behind bars for life.

Originally written for a Dutch audience familiar with the backdrop, readers may find themselves feeling their way through the dark as many scenes unfold untethered to context. In the same vein, at times, conversations float about unanchored to setting or descriptors.

With to-the-point prose and a precise focus on dialogue and timelines, “Judas” presents a matter-of-fact account of Astrid’s relationship with her brother while remaining a stark statement about how one familial tie can strangle so many lives. (AP)