Written by Harri Nykanen — With more than 30 published novels under his belt, Nights of Awe is the latest offering from Finnish crime journalist turned crime writer, Harri Nykanen, who has recently signed with Bitter Lemon Press. But it’s only the second of his books to appear in English. Nykanen’s previous release, Raid and the Blackest Sheep, part of the Raid series, was published by the Minneapolis-based Finnish crime publisher Ice Cold Crime back in 2010.
Yom Kippur is looming and the Helsinki Police Department’s only Jewish detective, Ariel Kafka, an inspector in the Violent Crimes Unit, has been called in to probe the deaths of two Arab men. Their bodies have been discovered close to the railway tracks in Linnunlaulu, the Kallio district of the city. Initial attempts to identify both victims are significantly hampered by facial damage inflicted at the time of death and a distinct lack of any identifying papers. Someone seems very keen on ensuring that these men remain nameless and one of the victims is missing his nose and an ear.
The story itself is compelling and Ariel is a likeable protagonist dealing with problems in his own life that make him more credible, without overpowering the main focus of the story. He’s not like Scandinavian contemporaries such as Harry Hole and Kurt Wallander, his problems are more mundane. Ariel juggles investigating his most difficult case yet with his obligations to his faith. Found to be lacking academically by his family, not committed enough by his rabbi and, worst of all, still unmarried at 40, it’s clear that Ariel is a man who tries hard to meet the high expectations placed on him but through no fault of his own always seems to fall short.
As a copper, he’s dedicated to his job and methodical in his approach. The investigation gradually begins to make some progress but things start to become complicated when the security police show an interest in the case, and two more bodies are discovered in a garage. Ariel and his team initially believe this may have been a dispute between rival drug gangs but perhaps there are more sinister implications. With the body count growing, Ariel finds himself under increasing pressure to get a result.
At 256 pages this is quite a quick, easy book to read, with definite appeal for those who favour the police procedural side of crime fiction. However, Nykanen is known as a writer who, like Steig Larsson, isn’t afraid of broaching some of the deeper problems within Finnish Society. Nights of Awe certainly has an interesting spectrum of themes ranging from potential terror cells to the Arab-Israeli conflict, anti-semitism and Mossad.
Although a seasoned hand at crime writing, Harri Nykanen is a new find for us here at CFL, but he’s someone we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on in the future. Nights of Awe is available to buy in paperback from today, and will be available as a Kindle download from 10 April.
Bitter Lemon Press
CFL Rating: 5 Stars