The Stone Murders, by Matti Joensuu
The Stone Murders, to my knowledge the first book by Finnish writer Matti Joensuu published in English, has been expertly translated by Raili Taylor. Joensuu writes police procedurals featuring detective Harjunpaa. His books are written in a spare, austere language which sometimes feels a little stiff.
The Stone Murders refer to just that – first one and then another murder in Helsinki where the victims are killed by stones. Very soon the police and detective Harjunpaa zooms in on youths hanging around in the area where the murders have been committed. Harjunpaa himself learns firsthand what it means to be surrounded by and harassed by rioting, pleasure seeking and teenagers totally lacking respect even for the police.
As readers, we know more than the police, and also follow two youngsters, both living sad – terrifying is perhaps a better description – lives, running away and getting drunk when they can, and getting into trouble more or less because they can and because it is something to do. We know they are the murderers and we know why. But will the police find then?
I found the book to be very interesting, not only for the mystery but also because it provides a somewhat shocking perspective on Finland’s youth problem (it may not be all that different in Germany, the UK and the US, by the way). The book really tells a shocking tale, not only of brutal murders but also of a segment of a generation with seemingly no future. Even so, the story ends on a note of hope. The Stone Murders is a good book I am happy to recommend!
Biographical note: Matti Yrjänä Joensuu
Joensuu was born 31 October 1948, and is a Finnish writer of crime fiction. He has been awarded the State's Literature Prize (1982), the Vuoden johtolanka prize (1985, 1994, 2004), and has been nominated for two Finlandias. He received the Martin Beck Award in 1987.
Joensuu, who works with the Helsinki police, has written several novels about the personal life and work of policeman Timo Harjunpää. Harjunpaa is a credible and pleasant character, and treats the criminals humanely. See also our reviews of two other books by Joensuu: The Priest of Evil, To Steal Her Love.