Rogues Book Summary - Rogues Book explained in key points
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Rogues summary

Patrick Radden Keefe

True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks

3.9 (136 ratings)
19 mins
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    A sister torn between family loyalty and her conscience.

    What does family loyalty look like when your brother is a vicious killer? That’s a question that plagued Astrid Holleeder all her life. Her brother, Willem, was a Dutch mobster who had kidnapped and murdered tens of people. But Astrid felt a deep sense of responsibility toward him.

    They were, as she said, “bound by misery.” They’d grown up with an alcoholic father who violently beat his family in drunken rages. Their childhood was about trying to survive and living by their wits. As painful as that history was, it was one Astrid shared with her brother. They had survived, together.

    So, how could she betray him to the police?

    For a long time, she didn’t. On the contrary, she shielded him from the police and the justice system. As a criminal lawyer, she built intricate cases defending him. She lied to the police on his behalf. And she worked to shield him from other gangsters who were out for his life.

    But, one day, Willem crossed a red line. He authorized a hit on another member of the family, his brother-in-law, Cor van Hout. Willem and Cor had been partners in crime. But their relationship soured when they had disagreements about how to run the family crime business.

    At around the same time, Cor had experienced multiple assassination attempts, including one that finally killed him. Astrid put two and two together: her brother, Willem, was behind the murder. He had killed Cor, and in so doing had deprived her sister of her husband, and her nephews and nieces of their father. Astrid had always believed in family loyalty, but Willem’s actions showed that he didn’t. He was only out for himself.

    At that moment, Astrid resolved to turn him in and became a key state witness against him.

    Her actions have cost her, dearly. She lives in hiding, moving from safe house to safe house. She constantly fears for her life. And, perhaps most painful of all, she has no contact with her brother, the person to whom she was once so close. But she doesn’t regret her actions. If she hadn’t turned him in, she’d have remained an accomplice to his crimes.

    Astrid’s brother, Willem Holleeder, was eventually apprehended thanks to his sister’s testimony. 

    But what happens when the family and entire community of a criminal are determined to protect him from arrest? He becomes very hard to catch. In the next story, you’ll hear how a notorious drug trafficker evaded police for decades and what eventually brought him down.

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    What is Rogues about?

    Rogues (2022) is a compilation of veteran journalist Patrick Radden Keefe’s most famous profiles for the New Yorker Magazine. Keefe delves into the lives of notorious criminals and con artists, exploring their complex motivations. He examines the societies that made them and the systems we have for bringing people to justice.

    Who should read Rogues?

    • Fans of long-form journalism 
    • Anyone interested in how the rogues of this world get away with their crimes
    • People interested in psychology and how past events can influence human behavior

    About the Author

    Patrick Radden Keefe is an award-winning staff writer at the New Yorker, and the author of best-selling books Empire of Pain and Say Nothing. He’s also the host of the podcast Winds of Change, named the top podcast of 2020 by the Guardian.

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