Behind God's Back (Ariel Kafka Series) by Harri Nykanen and Kristian London (translator)

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Behind God's Back (Ariel Kafka Series) by Harri Nykanen and Kristian London (translator)

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Buy Behind God's Back (Ariel Kafka Series) by Harri Nykanen and Kristian London (translator) at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Good news for we fans: Ariel Kafka, the only Jewish detective in Helsinki's violent crime unit is back. This time a murder occurs very close to home, with implications for his straight up, highly respected brother Eli. That'll teach him!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: January 2015
Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press
ISBN: 978-1908524423

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Ariel Kafka, as the only Jewish detective in Helsinki's violent crime unit, has special insight into the Jewish Community. It goes without saying but it also provides Ari with a steady flow of cases. Therefore when a local company director and Jewish congregation member is murdered, Ariel is first choice of investigator. Unfortunately the victim happens to be the man who could have become Ariel's father-in-law a couple of decades before but Ari feels enough removed by time not to disqualify himself from the case. Gradually as the web of clues is carefully teased out, more worrying connections are discovered. The Mossad may be involved but then so may Ari's brother Eli.

Crime-reporter-turned-author Harri Nykanen brings his very human detective out for a second airing after the debut Nights of Awe and once again I'm smitten. When a detective noir is told in the first person it's important to be able to engage with the narrator and Ari is a very engaging chap.

Ariel wins our sympathy by not seeming to belong fully anywhere. He has the respect of his police colleagues but his Judaism sets him apart slightly. On the other hand, although a member of the local Jewish community and synagogue attender on high days and holy days, he ploughs his own furrow where religion is concerned. Indeed in Harri's last novel Ari's brother Eli was pressuring him to find a nice Jewish girl to marry. This time Harri's pen wreaks a little revenge as Ari discovers what sort of community pillar Eli actually is. That's the thing about Mr Nykanen; he can produce fascinating stuff like this in a succinct, absorbing volume and we haven't even taken a look at the murder yet!

By the way, the novel works as a stand-alone but you'll miss out on the excellent debut novel if you read it in isolation.

Harri, with the able assistance of highly talented translator Kristian London where the English is concerned, proves he can both reason and twist a crime novel beautifully. The knowledge he gleaned as crime reporter salts the story with little gems as much as he seasons it with his dry, subtle sense of humour. (Watch out for the comment about needing the proverbial dog walking witness and subsequent occurrence.) Also we're given an opportunity to learn more of Ariel's past and understand him as a rounded person when his job brings him in touch with one ex-girlfriend that his brother actually approved of back in their youth.

If I have a moan it comes as a request to all book jacket synopsis writers: please, please don't tell us so much. Not knowing about the Mossad angle would have provided another twist and, as for the second murder… Why tell us before we start reading? It happens over half way through so again it would be an exciting surprise just at the point we believe things are calming down. (In fact I feel guilty telling you there's a second murder, even though the book blurb got there first.) Ok, rant over.

After the rant comes a request for a favour. (Didn’t think that through properly, did I?) At the time of going to press, publishers Bitter Lemon has no current plans to translate any of the other existing Ariel Kafka mysteries. Understandably – but sadly - in today's financial climate they want to see how this sells first. So perhaps if we all looked in their direction and smiled nicely…? Or failing that, if enough people succumb to the urge to a copy of the book... I know it's radical but it just may work!

(Thank you very much, Bitter Lemon Press, for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you've already read Nights of Awe, we also heartily recommend The Winter of the Lions by Jan Costin Wagner and Anthea Bell (translator), another ripping crime thriller from Finland.

Buy Behind God's Back (Ariel Kafka Series) by Harri Nykanen and Kristian London (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Behind God's Back (Ariel Kafka Series) by Harri Nykanen and Kristian London (translator) at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Behind God's Back (Ariel Kafka Series) by Harri Nykanen and Kristian London (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Behind God's Back (Ariel Kafka Series) by Harri Nykanen and Kristian London (translator) at Amazon.com.

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