Raid and the Blackest Sheep, by Harri Nykanen

Harri Nykanen

Harri Nykanen
(Nykänen) 57, has been a long-time crime journalist for the largest Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, and is now a full time author. He won the Finnish crime fiction award "The Clue" both in 1990 and in 2001.

Harri Nykanen is an interesting Finnish crime fiction writer, best known for his Raid series. Nykanen, 57, who has written more than 30 books and won several prestigious awards, has just seen the first of his books translated into English and published by IceCold Crime, a small independent publisher specializing in Finnish crime fiction.

Raid and the blackest sheep, by Harri NykanenRaid and the Blackest Sheep features Raid, a legend in some circles – a man of few words, an ultra-tough, hard-boiled hit man who is fast, efficient and shoots straight. A series based on the Raid character has appeared on television in both Finland and select U.S. markets, and there has been a movie made about Raid as well. He is a cult figure of sorts in Finland. This novel was the one that brought Nykanen the Clue Award for 2001.

Now Raid has hooked up with an ageing criminal named Nygren as his bodyguard and driver. The two of them are out on a strange tour. Nygren - a lifelong criminal with a somewhat distinguished career, a well-known and respected man in his line of work - is dying, and now he wants to set certain things straight. So the two honorable criminals set out in Nygren’s old, pristine Mercedes Benz on a strange and eventful journey up to the northernmost part of Finland, stopping here and there to dole out rewards, penance and punishment – whatever Nygren feels is due to the people they visit.

Their first stop is at a church. There they interrupt a sham preacher - who is fleecing his congregation for money. In the middle of his sermon, they inform the congregation of the preacher’s various sins over the years, rough him up a bit, and force him to pay back an old loan.

Nygren and Raid’s curious pilgrimage does not go unnoticed. Soon both cops and crooks are hard on their tails. Some crooks – old acquaintances of Nygren - believe he has a hidden stash of cash, and want to relieve him of it. And the cops cannot understand what the two men are up to, but suspect it can’t be anything but bad, so Detective Lieutenant Kempas wants the two men stopped, and sends his men out to hunt them down.

Harri Nykanen’s tale of this intriguing trek, which leaves a trail of wounded, dead and surprised, is delightful and original, and the plot is multi-layered and full of interesting twists and turns. The story is told in a laconic, quiet and somewhat subdued tone that I liked and though was very fitting to the tale of Nygren’s last journey. I enjoyed Raid and the Blackest Sheep, recommend it, and eagerly await the next installment in the series.

Praise for Nykanen’s Raid series:

"Raid has a lot of the same quiet vengeance as the characters that Clint Eastwood creates on the silver screen. Both have the ability to make even murder seem justified." - Länsi-Suomi

"Two honest criminals contemplate the meaning of life... Nykänen writes clever dialogue and his laconic humour is an enjoyment for every reader" – Aamulehti

Nights of Awe (An Ariel Kafka Mystery), by Harri Nykänen

Nights of Awe, Harri Nykanen

Two Arabs are killed in Helsinki. It’s not every day that two people are murdered in Helsinki. That Arabs are killed in Helsinki is extremely rare. Perhaps even stranger than this, however, is the fact that the police inspector assigned to the case, Ariel Kafka, is a Jew. He is one of the few Jews in Finland, and one of the even fewer Jews in Finland working in the police force.

The two Arabs have died violent deaths. The first was stabbed and shot to death, and had his nose and ears removed afterwards. The other died falling from a railway bridge while being chased by the two killers.

Inspector Ariel Kafka of the Helsinki Police Department Violent Crime Unit doesn’t know what to think of the cases. But he knows that he feels it is strange that the only Jewish police officer in the city is assigned a case like this during the high holy Nights of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But this is Finland. Nobody cares about Jewish holy days or about Kafka being Jewish in the first place. It is assumed that he first of all is a Finnish police officer, and that other identities are secondary.

However, the two killings are just the beginning in the relatively violent Nights of Awe. Soon, Ariel is called to a car body shop where two more dead bodies await him. The case is quickly becoming a mass murder scenario. But who is doing this, and why? Is it money or drug related? There are clues leading in this direction, and there are people seemingly wanting Ari to believe so, but the facts don’t add up quite as nicely as Ari would like.

More and more it seems to Ariel that the murders somehow are “political”. And as he digs deeper, he begins to uncover evidence linking the homicides to terrorism. As he does, he increasingly feels that he is being watched by the Finnish Security Police on one hand and members of his synagogue on the other. What is going on?

Nights of Awe is an interesting and very good Finnish police procedural. Detective Ariel Kafka is an interesting character, but I feel he needs to be developed a little further to becomes really, really interesting. The plot of the book is very good, and the story is quite suspenseful. What I appreciated the most in Nights of Awe, were the intriguing, compelling and very good dialogues with their dark humor, along with the feeling of authenticity. The ending is good too. Overall, it’s a great Finnish crime fiction novel from Harri Nykanen, very different from the style in most Swedish crime fiction novels, for instance. Recommended!

"An outstanding plot, an entertaining read. Give us more Inspector Kafka novels from the far North." — Fränkische Zeitung

"Unlike his Scandinavian contemporaries, Nykänen delights with an eccentric hero and a wonderful sense for dialogue. This is a tight thriller with an unexpected, explosive end." — Hamburger Nachrichten

Raid and the Kid, by Harri Nykanen

Raid and the kidRaid is a mysterious figure. He is Finnish crime fiction writer Harri Nykanen’s hard-nosed, no-nonsense, ultra-effective hit man. We met this legend first in Raid and the Blackest Sheep, where he functioned as bodyguard and driver for the ageing gangster Nygren.

Now - in Raid and the Kid - Raid is lying low at the farmhouse he inherited from Nygren, far up in northern Finland. He is minding his own business, doing as close to nothing as possible, when the son of a local shopkeeper stumbles onto his property with two bloodthirsty Bolivian drug traffickers on his heels. Raid – showing a softer side of himself - comes to the boy's aid. He swiftly deals with the two gangsters. So now he has a new enemy, one with lots of resources. Also, his action attracts unwanted attention elsewhere.

Meanwhile, in the Finnish capital of Helsinki, Detective Lieutenant Jansson and his colleagues are also dealing with the fallout of the actions of the Bolivian drug cartel. A beautiful Finnish stewardess with tons of bad connections in all directions and an affinity for the fine, white powder from Bolivia, has been found dead. So has her lover, a Bolivian warehouse worker who quite possibly has more than one job and may well be importing much more interesting goods than bananas.

So what’s up in cold Finland - as we meet it in Raid and the Kid? Why are agents of the Bolivian drug cartel running around in the wilderness in Northern Finland shooting at a kid? How come the apartment of the air stewardess is full of stolen goods? Why has she and her lover been killed? As the investigation progresses it becomes evident that a shipment of bananas that ended up at the wrong place, a shady PI, and old lovers all play important roles in the complex chain of events that has been set in motion in this hugely entertaining crime drama.

Raid and the Kid is a great, quiet, and understated Finnish crime fiction novel by the excellent best-selling Finnish crime fiction writer Harri Nykanen. This is the real deal – evocative, authentic, and as Finnish as it gets. It is representative of a genre within a genre: Finnish crime fiction is distinctive enough to be a genre of Scandinavian crime fiction. It is humorous, somewhat suspenseful, and very interesting!

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