Thursday, January 22, 2015

Behind God’s Back-Harri Nykänen

Behind God’s Back
Harri Nykänen; Kristian London (Translator)
Bitter Lemon Press, Nov 18 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781908524423

In Helsinki, someone murders Jewish office supplies stores owner Samuel Jacobson in front of his home in Tammisalo.  Helsinki Violent Crimes Unit Chief Detective Huovinen assigns Detective Ariel Kafka to investigate the homicide because his subordinate and the victim are Jewish.  Ariel knew Samuel as the cop dated the victim’s daughter Lea when they were eighteen, but conceals that from his superior officer. 

As he and Detective Simolin go to the crime scene, Ariel knows Lea lives in Israel.  Neighbors inform the culprit was a cop.  They next question the widow Ethel who mentions her son Roni is in Lapland.  The cops also learn from her that her workaholic husband stayed home for three days in spite of not being ill; and that he obtained a loan from Baltic Invest Estonian bank through the law firm of Kafka & Oxbaum; owned by Ariel’s brother Eli and their second cousin Max.  As the inquiry internationally widens to include Israel’s Mossad and the Russian Mafia, a second similar murder occurs; thus the Finnish Security Police become involved.

The second Case for Ariel Kafka of Helsinki’s Violent Crimes Unit (see Nights of Awe) is a fabulous Finnish police procedural.  The lead protagonist may not be a practicing Jew, but feels strongly about keeping his race and Israel safe.  The multifaceted investigation follows subgenre standard procedurals but also contains red herrings and twists.  However, it is the close look into Finland’s small Jewish community, still distrustful of authorities even by those generations born decades after the Holocaust, that make for a complex terrific whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

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