A young girl disappears while cycling to volleyball practice. Her bike is found in exactly the same place that another girl was murdered, thirty-three years before. The original perpetrator was never brought to justice -- could they have struck again? The eeriness of the crime unsettles not only the police and public, but also someone who has been carrying a burden of guilt for many years...
Because SILENCE is the third of the Detective Kimmo Joentaa series, I read it third. (Rebellious you may well think, not paying attention is a much better explanation).
One of the things that I most love about these three books - ICE MOON, SILENCE and THE WINTER OF THE LIONS is the sheer beauty of everything. The place, the culture and the emotion. Sure Joentaa is in deep mourning for his wife who died too young, but there's no sense of self-pity, this is simply a beautiful example of a man struggling quietly, emotionally, but with enormous dignity to find his path, to resurrect his life.
Whilst he's doing that, aspects of real life must go on - in SILENCE it's about the past and the present - the long unsolved abduction, rape and murder of a young girl, and a copycat crime - the same spot, same method, same outcome. None of which seems to make sense given the great time gap between the two awful crimes.
One of the things that stays with you from all of these books is the gentleness, almost delicacy with which Wagner handles his characters, their places and the events that affect them. Everyone - parents, past and present police officers, even the killer are compassionately drawn. SILENCE is again a book more about why than how, and definitely about the after affects on so many participants - be they unwitting or complicit. It's a book about choices, it's a book about grief, and most of all it's a book about life. Needless to say, you've probably worked out, I loved this series - although I think, unlike me, you'd be best to read them in order to really get a feeling for Joentaa's journey in particular. These are books for those who are less interested in vengeance and action, and looking for something contemplative, compassionate and incredibly moving.
THE WINTER OF THE LIONS - Jan Costin Wagner
Every year since the tragic death of his wife Detective Kimmo Joentaa has prepared for the isolation of Christmas with a glass of milk and a bottle of vodka to arm him against the harsh Finnish winter. However, this year events take an unexpected turn when a young prostitute turns up on his doorstep.
I cannot believe, firstly that I've left the last two books in this series unread for so long, and secondly I'd be daft enough to read the third, THE WINTER OF THE LIONS out of order. Not that it made a lot of difference to the experience. It's hard to use the word enjoyable when you're referring to any of the books by Jan Costin Wagner as they are so steeped in grief and brooding, although, there was just a glimmer that Kimmo Joentaa might be ready to move on a little. Even though the death of his wife is still the defining thing in his life, he is forced to look outside himself, despite it being Christmas, the time of year he most dreads.
Set in Finland, Wagner is a German writer with a unique sense of the culture and the country. His writing is pared down, emotional and dark. The plotting of the book is slow, often impenetrable, yet for this reader, it simply didn't matter. The storytelling really is astoundingly affecting and involving. Joentaa is magnificently morose, but without a feeling of overwhelming self-pity.
The first book in the series, ICE MOON, was a revelation when I first read it and I waited impatiently for the next to be translated. Then for reasons best known to my idiot self, I bought and then never picked up the next book in the series SILENCE. There really are times when I could kick myself, or at least put the book immediately on the bedside table.
ICE MOON - Jan Costin Wagner
Recently finished, ICE MOON by Jan Costin Wagner was an unexpected pleasure. It seems that Wagner has a bit of a reputation in his homeland of Germany for turning the "traditional" form of crime fiction on its head and if that's the case then he's done it again with ICE MOON.
Whilst there is murder, and an obviously very disturbed serial killer, in many ways ICE MOON is more an exploration of grief. The book opens with Finnish detective Kimmo Joentaa confronted with the death of his young wife from cancer. Returning to work straight away, he is left trying to understand and deal with her death, whilst a strange series of connected killings begin to occur involving a range of seemingly unconnected victims.
Whilst the crime investigation proceeds through the book, the focus of ICE MOON remains Kimmo's struggle with grief, the affect that the grief has on his decision making, his life and his work. Ultimately it's that overwhelming sense of his own grief which tempers and informs the entire book - it's significantly less about the crime and more an exploration of this one man's grief.
This was undoubtedly one of the most moving books I've read in a long long while - the crime was handled well, but what you come away from is the awfulness of loss, and Kimmo's tentative steps back into his life.