The Winter of the Lions by Jan Costin Wagner and Anthea Bell (translator)
|The Winter of the Lions by Jan Costin Wagner and Anthea Bell (translator)|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: It may start in a low key, but this third Detective Kimmo Joentaa thriller builds to a full-on climax. A welcome addition to any 'snow-noir' fan's library that reads as well as a one-off as it does as part of the series.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: November 2012|
|External links: Author's website|
Detective Kimmo Joentaa braces himself for another Christmas as a widower. Whilst his colleagues celebrate, he seeks distraction but this year distraction isn't hiding that well. Larissa, a lady of the night (according to her) calls in to the police station to report a professional contra temps and becomes a little more than a crime report number. Then there's the murder. This may be a regular occurrence in Kimmo's line of work but this time it's different: the victim is the police medical examiner and, unfortunately, there will be others.
Jan Costin Wagner stands out from the current Scandi-crime writers, not due to lack of talent (he's a recipient of the prestigious Marlowe Prize) but due to nationality. Wagner is actually German but has chosen to set his books in his wife's home country: Finland. Is this a complaint? No, on the contrary: considering this decision has given us Ice Moon, Silence and now The Winter of the Lions, I'm grateful to whomever or whatever gave him the idea.
Kimmo isn't an intellectual like Morse or someone blessed with super-human deductive powers like Poirot. He's just a man trying to do a job despite all the problems and frailties associated with a human heritage. His wife died from cancer in the first Joentaa thriller (Ice Moon) and since then he's been trying to get through life with a hole in his life where his happy marriage once dwelt. He's not perfect, (some of his deductions occur by accident rather than calculated conclusion) but then neither are the 'goodies' around him. This is a real world inhabited by real people in a Rebus kind of way, a fact demonstrated by his right hand man having to fight a gambling problem that could destroy more than a career.
Wagner's writing is deceptively light. We start by skimming across a murder landscape that appears superficial but we're gradually pulled in to the psyche of wonderfully written characters. The complexity deepens by such small increments that we don't notice being enticed from the shallows as our brains are painlessly engaged. The chapters cleverly alternate between Kimmo's viewpoint and that of a mysterious woman. Is she the murderer or someone we already know from Kimmo's life… or both?
It's not a downer of a book though. The mystery is intriguing whilst banter-humour leaps from the page when you least expect it. Personally I have never giggled out loud whilst reading about someone reporting an assault before I read this. I know this sounds terribly disrespectful but you need to read vivacious whore Larissa's interview with Kimmo before judging me; I dare you not to even smile.
The Finnish names are a little difficult to pronounce without help. However this is the fault of our national insularity rather than that of the author. I suggest the way I used to bypass the problem: just don't read them out loud. This may seem overly simplistic, but it works and difficulty with pronunciation is no reason to miss out on a mystery with so many twists that the motive is as enticingly unpredictable as the path to the murder. At the very least you'll come away with the knowledge that people make life-like, life-size puppets to emulate bodies in movies but I have a feeling this novel will give you a lot more satisfaction than that.
A special thank you to Vintage for sending us a copy of this book for review.
If you've enjoyed this try something else from the genre. Perhaps [The Leopard by Jo Nesbo and Don Bartlett]] or Depths by Henning Mankell.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Winter of the Lions by Jan Costin Wagner and Anthea Bell (translator) at Amazon.com.
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