Matti Yrjänä Joensuu: Harjunpää ja rautahuone [Harjunpää and the iron room]

19 November 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Harjunpää ja rautahuone
[Harjunpää and the iron room]
Helsinki: Otava, 2010. 302 p.
ISBN 978-951-1-24742-5
€ 26, hardback

This book’s shocking opening scene, a cot death, is not followed by anything that lightens the tone. Finland’s best-selling crime writer, Matti Yrjänä Joensuu (born 1948) – whose work has been translated into nearly 20 languages – focuses here on a criminal investigation conducted by Inspector Timo Harjunpää into the murderer of several wealthy women. The victims are linked via their purchases of sex; the detective’s attention soon falls on Orvo, a masseur who also turns tricks as a gigolo. Nearly every scene is shot through with themes of lovelessness, exploitation and the connection between malice and sex. Harjunpää is an empathetic, slightly rumpled cop who has an ambitious yet somewhat downbeat attitude to his job. Joensuu’s Harjunpää ja pahan pappi (Priest of Evil) was published in English in 2006. Joensuu himself is a retired police officer; his particular strength as an author is his extraordinarily precise, realistic portrayal of police work. But it’s not just about who did what; why they did it is equally important. One reason for Joensuu’s popularity is his extremely well-developed understanding of human nature. He observes and analyses, but never judges.

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