An ambitious new novel from Finland's most distinguished crime writer, himself still a working policeman after more than thirty years.
Something of an event in Finland, it marks the return of Joensuu to writing after a ten-year gap, along with his key creation, Detective Sergeant Timo Harjunpaa of the Helsinki police Violent Crimes unit.
It is rarely less than a thought-provoking piece of work.
In his native land, Joensuu is considered something of an innovator, so readers should expect something out of the ordinary.
The opening chapters concern first, two terrified children who are compelled to intervene in a potentially life-threatening struggle between their feuding parents.
Then we meet Sinikka, whose function in the plot is yet to become clear.
Abruptly the book switches to a key location: a bare hillside in the middle of Helsinki (we are even given its A-Z reference), riddled with tunnels, one part of which is home to the Priest of Evil himself.Finally the the key story line emerges: Harjunpaa is called in to investigate the suicide of a young man who has apparently thrown himself under a Helsinki underground train - or did he just stumble?Right from the start, however, Joensuu is concerned to disconcert the reader.
Is that disturbing opening chapter 'real' or the work of the writer that we meet later in the book, struggling with writer's block?
Who is Sinikka? What are we to make of the Priest of Evil himself , muttering cod-Latin as he embarks on his campaign to appease his belief in some superhuman earth mother figure?
One thing is certain.All these strategies, whether 'explained' or not as the novel proceeds, (and the background of a key character is left disturbingly - and deliberately - ambiguous), are cleverly interwoven into the fabric of the book and are mostly at the service of its underlying theme, the lack of real focus on our children, and the consequences, not always bad but most often disastrous, of such neglect.
This is not a comfortable read (and the ending is one of the most disturbing I've read in the genre) but, in spite of some later unconvincing plot elements, it is a worthwhile one, and one that will not leave you untouched.
One other thing is never in doubt.From the early chapter where Harjunpaa deals with the aftermath of the death of an old woman, her simple-minded forty year-old transvestite son in attendance, you know that a considerable writer is at work, writing from a lifetime personal experience of disintegrating humanity. Joensuu is also well served by David Hackston's polished and sympathetic translation.
This book is a best-seller in Finland, and has been nominated for the prestigious Glass Key award, the crime fiction prize competed for each year across the Scandinavian countries.
Adventurous readers start here.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 352 pages
- Publisher: Arcadia Books
- Publication Date: 05/02/2006
- Category: Crime & mystery
- ISBN: 9781900850933