Sunday, December 1, 2013

Finnish Scandicrime Procedural...An Umlautfest! 1 December 2013


MY FIRST MURDER (Detective Maria Kallio #1)
Author: LEENA LEHTOLAINEN
Translator: OWEN WITESMAN
AmazonCrossing
$2.99 Kindle edition, available now

Rating: 3* of five

The Publisher Says: Maria Kallio has just been assigned her first murder investigation. To prove to herself and her squad that she has what it takes to be a detective, she’ll have to solve the death of Tommi Peltonen. Found floating facedown at the water’s edge of his Helsinki villa, Tommi had invited his choir group to spend a weekend at his retreat. But beneath the choir’s seemingly tight-knit bonds seethed bitter passion and jealousy. As Maria sets out to determine the difference between friends and foes, she uncovers the victim’s unsavory past—and motives for all seven suspects. Now it’s up to her to untangle a complex set of clues before the killer strikes again.

The first book in Leena Lehtolainen’s bestselling Finnish crime series starring Detective Maria Kallio, My First Murder offers hard-boiled realism from a female perspective.

My Review: I gave in and read a Scandicrime book. It's a serviceable police procedural told in first person by thirtyish Maria Kallio, law student and relentlessly single female interloper in the world of career police detectives. She appears as a replacement for a broken-down cop who injured himself in the line of duty, and she rapidly worked her way up the chain of command because 1) she's a girl and b) she's tough as nails.

Now, as to the mystery part, I liked it fine but didn't love it. Some interesting characters were adequately developed. What made my eyebrows rise was the reportedness of the atmosphere in which Maria works. She tells us a wee bit, basically a log-line, about the other crimes she and her department are pursuing; not enough to make us care, more than enough to make us curious, and just enough to bring the sense of urgency about the main case of this book to a halt. Can't put this down to first-book-itis, either, since this author had her first book published when she was twelve!

So what was I left with? A sea of Finnish names, all of which look wrong to me, and locations I know nothing whatsoever about, and a sense of being slightly seasick as Tommi and Tomppa and Tiina and Tiiu and Riku and Antti all blended into a mass of UUUUUIIIIUUYYPPPPAAAA. Finnish, when spoken, raises my hackles with its sheer alienness. When written, it causes me distress because it's got nowhere for me to grab hold of anything to give it meaning to me. Plus everything seems to wear umlauts, those freaky-deaky fangmarks that make all previously comprehensible sounds turn into strangled moans.

It's free to borrow on your Kindle, and that's what I'd recommend you do. At $2.99, it's not a break-the-bank download, but see if you can hang with the sheer Finnishness before committing actual funds to it.

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