Ice Moon Hardcover – Apr 9 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Loss and the infinite ways we attempt to come to terms with it permeate this absorbing psychological mystery, Wagner's third novel and the first available in English translation, set in the Finnish town of Turku. A week after his wife dies of Hodgkin's disease, Det. Kimmo Joentaa feels compelled to return to work to investigate the murder of a young woman smothered in her own bed while her husband was away. Only a valueless painting appears to have been stolen. A second murder, just as puzzling, occurs in a youth hostel where a young man is killed while others slept all around him. Joentaa is sure the murders are connected and even feels inexplicably close to the killer. Though Wagner sometimes shifts awkwardly to the troubled killer's point of view, the despairing Kimmo Joentaa and the large cast of supporting characters are well drawn. This skillful mystery will have readers hoping Wagner's previous novels will soon be available in English. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
During the coldest summer in memory, Finnish police detective Kimmo Joentaa is shattered by the death of his wife. To avoid being consumed by his grief, he returns to work and is assigned to investigate the murder of a woman who was smothered while she slept. Two more murders follow, and Kimmo wonders if the serial killer, who specializes in seemingly "peaceful" deaths, isn't the only thing keeping him from total despair. Told largely through the thoughts of the policeman and the killer, Ice Moon is another superior crime novel from Scandinavia. But it's bleak, perhaps bleaker than any of Henning Mankell's emotionally harrowing Kurt Wallander novels. And, because much of the narrative mines the thoughts of two tormented men, it lacks the strong sense of place found in Mankell's tales. That's too bad, because the locale of Turku, Finland, is little known to vast numbers of crime fans. Here's hoping Costin Wagner brings Kimmo back and offers a more detailed look at Finnish life. Thomas Gaughan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Wrapped in the painful reality of his harrowing grief, Joentaa intuitively recognizes the killer, a least feels a sort of empathy, sensing a lonely, alienated individual. Torn between interviewing the various people connected with the victims, their friends and spouses, the detective discovers that when he finally opens up to a relative stranger about his recent loss, he is also able to focus more clearly on the murders, eventually recognizing the man who has walked, invincible, through the lives of his victims. It is shocking to Joentaa that he has met the murderer and failed to recognize him at once.
The Finnish landscape and a clear, if, detached, writing style gives this crime novel an interesting patina, a removal from the emotions of the moment, as both Joentaa and the murderer retreat into more bearable territory. But, like the cool, distant moon that follows the killer's actions, this icy remove evaporates as reality demands recognition. Although I enjoyed the distance in the writing and the attention to emotional detail, the lack of passion that permeates the book also served to alienate me from the characters to some degree. A great fan of the work of Karen Fossum, I found Wagner's approach similar, but I failed to make a connection, other that my original interest in the beautiful rendering of the detective's personal loss at the beginning of the novel. Whether esoteric or merely passionless, I cannot tell. Luan Gaines/2007.
The focus on Joentaa is occasionally interrupted by an account of the killer's thoughts and actions, and this is no picnic either. The thoughts are disturbing even if the actions are not too gory. At first awkward and disconcerting, these digressions gradually become more enlightening about the killer. These two desperate men are walking in the real world. but they're not really part of it, giving Joentaa a sympathetic understanding of the perp that complicates his grief, as does the character's longing to connect with others who share his situation.
The writing style is spare but not simplistic. You will know a bit about these characters by the book's end -- Kimmo the widower and Ketola the hothead and Gronholm the affable one, the inappropriately cheerful coroner and the unreasonable commissioner. What sets this series apart is its complex psychological approach, and what sets this book apart is the rawness of this character's pain, beautifully written and leading to a satisfying conclusion. Joentaa's grief permeates all the books of the series, but none more so than Ice Moon.
A little cheer filters through occasionally, but not much, and the author underdescribes Finland, an inherently interesting setting, but somehow the story and the characters are compelling enough that the flaws slough away. My limited impression of Finland is that its sensibility, like Iceland's, is a bit quirkier than the other Scandinavian countries. The books and movies I've read and seen always have an unusual element or two, and this book is no exception. Also nice is the valuable service rendered by secondary characters, characters who might have a line or two in another book, but play an important role in Ice Moon. Nice touch.
Due to the fickle market for Scandinavian fiction I've read this series totally out of order, and I'm rather glad. I don't know how eager I'd have been to continue after this pretty bleak start to the series, yet I've .. enjoyed isn't quite the right word. I have been moved by them.
This is the complex psychological portrait of two men on either side of a relationship as old as society -- the good guy versus the bad guy, and maybe the closest Scandinavian thrillers come to literature.
Books in the series are: Ice Moon, Silence, Winter of the Lions, and Light in a Dark House.