Razor-sharp coral, menacing beaches
(This English synopsis was prepared by the Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature, which selected the novel for their bulletin 'Ten books from Holland and Flanders'. Foundation Web Site)
'The Mola mola is a solitary, pelagic fish that can grow to a length of three metres, with a weight of more than a thousand kilos. It has no tail and is a poor swimmer. It drifts along on the great ocean currents and lives on plankton and jellyfish. In some regions it is called the 'sunfish' because it occasionally lies on the surface, basking in the sun. Elsewhere it is called the 'moonfish' due to its shape.'
Gramm, the taciturn and surly main character of The Smuggler of the Exumas is the owner of a boat named after this fish. He cruises around the Bahamian archipelago, commissioned by a ship owner to look for his 'friend' Frank Blackwell who disappeared with a chartered boat, Gallant Lady, a year previously.
In the harbour of Bemini, Gramm takes the 11-year-old Rolle on board, as a guide to pilot him along the dangerous sandbanks and coral reefs. Gramm gets shot while filling up with water on an uninhabited island, probably by Colombian drug smugglers. Thanks to Rolle, they manage to reach the island of Stanchion Cay, where Blackwell turns out to be hiding from the consequences of a murder he committed while transporting smuggled goods. Blackwell cannot travel back to Florida, where the owner of Gallant Lady is waiting.
Gramm had started out in the hope of receiving part of the insurance money if he could prove that the boat had been lost. But now that this possibility has been ruled out, Gramm and Blackwell decide to initiate another lucrative but nasty business. Blackwell is to take Haitians aboard, Gramm will subsequently smuggle them into Florida. But things turn out differently. Blackwell turns out to be a very unreliable partner, and the deal ends in a violent scene. Gramm and Rolle can only just escape, only to run into a heavy storm.
The events mark The Smuggler of the Exumas as an adventure novel par excellence. Van der Kolk tells his modern pirate story with the pace and suppleness of Hemingway. But it is more than an exciting boys' book. Particularly the evocation of the boat trip under the sheer blue sky swept clear by the trade winds, beyond desolate islands with virgin beaches, wide panoramas, and the many-coloured sea make reading this book an unprecedented pleasure. Van der Kolk, who has sailed in the Bahamas, knows exactly how to wake the dormant adventurer in every reader.
The Smuggler of the Exuma's displays the virtues of the Dutch language: the merit and expressiveness of the minimum. (...) It is written the way Chekhov imagnied the perfect book.

De Volkskrant
Many parallels can be established between Melville's Moby Dick and Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, like its great predecessors, Van der Kolk's The Smuggler grabs hold of you from the very first page.

Noordhollands Dagblad
Blood-curdling and heart-breaking

Leeuwarder Courant