Behind God's Back by Harri Nykänen

Book Review by Galen O'Hanlon | 02 Jan 2015
Book title: Behind God's Back
Author: Harri Nykänen

A businessman gets shot on his doorstep in Helsinki one morning, and this apparently simple homicide lights up a web of connections and corruption that leads all the way to Israel. Ariel Kafka, of Helsinki’s violent crime unit, leads the investigation despite his conflicting position in the Finnish Jewish community. Not only does he know everybody, but he also shagged the dead guy’s daughter a while back. 

This is Nordic crime fiction at its understated end – there’s none of the gory violence you’ll find elsewhere in the genre. Nykänen is more interested in picking at the intersections of politics, religion and business, and how the lines of power all lead back to the same place.

The pace is swift, and Helsinki makes for a beautiful backdrop, but there is a little too much reliance on the characters talking the plot to each other in perfunctory fashion. Kristian London’s translation captures Nykänen’s subtle humour well – in response to his brother saying ‘what a boring funeral,’ Kafka thinks, ‘Eli was right though. I had attended funerals that were more fun.’ The book is at its best like this: looking askance at the idioms and machinations of the genre.  [Galen O'Hanlon]

Out 15 Jan, published by Bitter Lemon Press, RRP £8.99