THE PRIEST OF EVIL - Matti Joensuu
Eurocrime is really a tremendous imprint, providing some real little gems of books from a range of different cultural backgrounds. These books provide the crime reader with a glimpse into another culture. And make you realise that whilst some things are very different, more often it's the similarities that are surprising.
The things that THE PRIEST OF EVIL shows are the same in Finland, as they are where I come from, include the way that people can be invisible. Sometimes it's because of age, often it's age and gender combined. The other thing that seems to be guaranteed to make you invisible is doing something that discomforts others. Stand and preach, hand out pamphlets, be old, be old and female, look scruffy, or homeless or somehow "different" and you're pretty well guaranteed to slip under most people's radars. Except for other members of society also slightly on the outer. And that was the other message that came across very clearly in this book - be an outsider and you risk gravitating towards the edges, towards acceptance of any kind. Regardless of whether those edges are safe, and whether that acceptance is unconditional. Although it's not always a given and in many ways the hero's in our society (in this case the tenacious detective), are outsiders in their own right - who were drawn to a different edge.
THE PRIEST OF EVIL is quiet and contained, whilst Joensuu creates a very intimate relationship with his characters. As is the way with so many of the very good psychological style crime fiction books, there is a lot that isn't fully explained, resolved or even addressed. The reader is left to consider what it is that initiates the directions that people's lives take.
There have been a strange succession of violent deaths at Helsinki tube stations. The police are baffled: nobody has seen anything and the tapes from CCTV show nothing.
Detective Sergeant Timo Harjunpää of the Helsinki Violent Crimes Unit has experienced more than enough of the seamier side of human nature in his career, but the forces of evil have never crossed his path in such an overwhelming fashion. Who is the mysterious old woman handing out religious tracts in Latin or the priest who preaches to commuters? Can they be connected to the killings?