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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 January 2016
The author, a German, has written a series of books featuring Deterctive Kimmo Joentaa and has colleagues in Turku. These books have two important characteristics, Joentaa is a strongly-drawn central character who is still suffering from the early death of his wife, Sanna, and they are short. They also have the benefit of a brilliant but unshowy translation by Anthea Bell who captures the pared-back style of the author..

The story, which unfolds between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day [a time of the year that the detective dreads], is unfolded with regular introspective thoughts of the couple’s life together and their plans for the future, but it also introduces a disturbingly enigmatic character, the prostitute Larissa, who appears on the second page and remains until the last. Almost imperceptibly the reader follows a thaw in Joensmaa’s attitude to life.

The main storyline is centred on a two deaths that follow a TV discussion involving a puppet-maker who creates fake corpses for the films and a forensic pathologist who is a close colleague of Joentaa and his colleagues. Interspersed with this plot are the fragmentary comments by a female character whose significance only becomes clear as the book proceeds. The police investigation is shown to proceed by laborious teamwork and Joentaa’s insights and intuition. Around the detective a series of characters are fleshed out, perhaps the most memorable being one, Thomas Heinonen, with a gambling addiction that threatens to destroy his marriage.

The background to the story is the gloom of the Finnish winter that perfectly reflects Joenmaa’s own mental state. The locations range from the snowy wastes around Turku to urban Helsinki and the headquarters of a TV station where the minor characters and background information are especially well portrayed, the self-absorption of the former and of the charismatic TV host, Kai-Petteri Hämäläinen, much to the fore. One of the incidental pleasures is to boggle at the complexity of the Finnish names.

Wagner allows the story to develop at its own pace without any unnatural forcing. Joentaa’s background and the details that emerge from the investigation enables the author to explore the effects of grief on individuals and families, and how they attempt to deal with it. Both are addressed with considerable sensitivity.

This is the third in the series, following ‘Ice Moon’ and ‘Silence’, but can be read as a stand-alone. It is strongly recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 January 2016
The author, a German, has written a series of books featuring Deterctive Kimmo Joentaa and has colleagues in Turku. These books have two important characteristics, Joentaa is a strongly-drawn central character who is still suffering from the early death of his wife, Sanna, and they are short. They also have the benefit of a brilliant but unshowy translation by Anthea Bell who captures the pared-back style of the author..

The story, which unfolds between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day [a time of the year that the detective dreads], is unfolded with regular introspective thoughts of the couple’s life together and their plans for the future, but it also introduces a disturbingly enigmatic character, the prostitute Larissa, who appears on the second page and remains until the last. Almost imperceptibly the reader follows a thaw in Joensmaa’s attitude to life.

The main storyline is centred on a two deaths that follow a TV discussion involving a puppet-maker who creates fake corpses for the films and a forensic pathologist who is a close colleague of Joentaa and his colleagues. Interspersed with this plot are the fragmentary comments by a female character whose significance only becomes clear as the book proceeds. The police investigation is shown to proceed by laborious teamwork and Joentaa’s insights and intuition. Around the detective a series of characters are fleshed out, perhaps the most memorable being one, Thomas Heinonen, with a gambling addiction that threatens to destroy his marriage.

The background to the story is the gloom of the Finnish winter that perfectly reflects Joenmaa’s own mental state. The locations range from the snowy wastes around Turku to urban Helsinki and the headquarters of a TV station where the minor characters and background information are especially well portrayed, the self-absorption of the former and of the charismatic TV host, Kai-Petteri Hämäläinen, much to the fore. One of the incidental pleasures is to boggle at the complexity of the Finnish names.

Wagner allows the story to develop at its own pace without any unnatural forcing. Joentaa’s background and the details that emerge from the investigation enables the author to explore the effects of grief on individuals and families, and how they attempt to deal with it. Both are addressed with considerable sensitivity.

This is the third in the series, following ‘Ice Moon’ and ‘Silence’, but can be read as a stand-alone. It is strongly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 21 October 2011
My second foray into the darker realms of the Finnish detective and those around him though this is the third to feature Detective Kimmo Joentaa. It is certainly better than book 2 which, in turn, I thought was very good if a little too dark for my personal taste. However, in this book, we've moved on to three years after the detective's wife's death and, although he still broods daily, he does now have a lighter influence in his life - though for the life of me, I've no idea where she came from or what she does!

Larissa, the woman in question, does seem to give Kimmo a spiritual lift - occasionally - but we are still given a sombre story dealing with the aftermath of the collapse of the local Ice Rink's roof which kills the husband and son of a now mentally upset mother.

Kimmo's friend, the forensic pathologist of an earlier story becomes a murder victim, to be followed by another and the attempted murder of a third, the only slender clue being their connection to a showing of a TV programme.

The author is brilliant in the way that he puts together the investigation whilst still able to transmit to the reader the dark recesses of the mind which influence the actions of his characters. It's very hard not to like any of these characters, actually and the story rattles along as Kimmo seems to spend more time travelling than Dr. Who.

I like, too, the gradual development of the characters of the police team around Joentaa; little by little, they are becoming their own character rather than just a name. If only I could get my English head around the Finnish names, life would certainly be easier!

The slow burning action builds up to an excellent finale, the outcome predictable but well constructed and, once the investigation is all over, we are left to ponder whether Larissa will become more than just a passing whim for both her and Kimmo. Regrettably, the reader will have a long wait to find the answer, I think.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 23 January 2013
The Winter of the Lions comes into the unusual category of a Scandinavian crime novel written by a German. Jan Costin Wagner has had many of his books translated into quite a number of languages and he has won prizes for his fiction around the world. The Winter of the Lions was translated by the highly-regarded Anthea Bell which suggests that the publishers think it is a cut-above the run-of-the-mill crime novels.

Like most crime novels, The Winter of the Lions has a police detective as the main character, this time a Kimmo Joentaa, who following the death of his wife returns each night to a snow-bound, lonely house to sit in silence reflecting on the past. An unexpected visitor arrives on his doorstep on Christmas Eve, a young, enigmatic woman who, earlier in the day at the police-station, has claimed to be a victim of rape. The lonely Joentaa allows her into his house and after a short conversation, "a great cry enters" Joentaa's brain as she takes him in her arms.

Joentaa is not the only damaged individual in the police team. His sidekick Tuomas Heinonen has a major gambling addiction and throughout the book we read of Joentaa's efforts to divert him from bringing disaster on himself and his family as he places high-stakes bets on English football teams.

Before long the set-piece murder occurs, a highly complex affair, involving a forensic scientist and a manufacturer of fake corpses for the film industry. The rest of the book concerns Joentaa's investigation of this and further crimes, but this is no "police procedural" in the usual sense, for Joentaa works by intuitive compulsions rather than painstaking analysis of the evidence. There is much tragedy along the way and some highly damaged people to deal with and I admire the author's ability to create believable, multi-dimensional characters who do not act in the obvious way but show all the irrational and contradictory behaviours common to human-kind.

I very much enjoyed ths multi-layered crime novel and will definitely be seeking out more of the author's books.
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on 16 June 2011
This,the third novel featuring the enigmatic Finnish detective Kimmo Joentaa,
is arguably the best to date.
On Christmas Eve,at the police station,a young woman,presumably a prostitute,
reports to Joentaa that she has been sexually assaulted.Later that evening,
the same woman.Larissa,turns up at the detective's home,only to be invited in.
Shortly after Christmas Joentaa finds himself part of a team investigating a
double murder,one of the victims being a forensic pathologist colleague.The
police investigation gets nowhere until Joentaa is allowed to go off on his
own and use his intuition and idiosyncratic methods.
It is not the police procedural aspects that provides the main interest in
this novel,but rather the illusive character of Joentaa.He often experiences
flashbacks of his deceased wife--he is a man of few words (apart from 'sorry'),
and he finds a lover as hidden as himself.Yet he is respected by his colleagues
for his unusual but efficacious methods.--An original and enjoyable read.
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on 14 September 2013
This moody tale is set in Finland in the winter, over the Christmas season, so lots of snow and dark nights. It starts on 24 December and ends on 1 January. Life and death goes on as normal, and the snow is no hindrance to the murderer. There are lots of complicated Finnish names to get your head around but that helps create the feeling of place of Finland in the depths of winter.

The book gets off to a good start and an unusual story-line when the police pathologist (who had been a guest on a chat show) is found stabbed on a ski trail. This is followed by further attacks on Helsinki's answer to 'Oprah' and another of his guests.

Detective Kimmo Joentaa of the Turku police department takes charge of the day to day investigation work. Kimmo is a contemplative 30-something, widowed and lonely, going home to a dark house - until a new woman comes into his life, a prostitute. It is not what it sounds like, but more than a bit weird none-the-less.

Most of the action moves to Helsinki where the Turku team displaces the Helsinki detectives in solving the crime. Kimmo's musings and the author's device of giving us glimpses in mini-chapters of the life and doings of the probable killer give us broad clues to the identity of the killer.

This is quite a short book, 266 pages but with 93 chapters. Chapter 79 comprises two sentences. Quite a few of these short chapters are dedicated to the mystery person, and we have assume that this person is the killer.

At times I found this quite hard going and I am not sure how much of that was due to something being lost in translation. I think it would translate very well to TV serial format which would get around the awkwardness of some of the writing.
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on 31 March 2014
Have.enjoyed others in the series featuring Detective Kimmo Joentaa. The setting of the dank Finnish winter adds to the atmosphere and Joentaa's house like the man is in a lonely place. The premise for this murder is cleverly constructed and although the reader is given insights into the killers mind it is not revealed who it is until the end of the book. Jan Costin Wagner writes in a laid back manner but builds the tension to a dramatic close.
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on 25 April 2013
The story is very slow moving and there is absolutely no tension in the telling. There are too many characters with little or no connection to the plot which is itself mundane and cliched. Completely fizzled out at the end. Would not recommend.
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on 18 August 2011
I had really high hopes for this third book in Wagner's series but somehow the brooding nature of book one and two was not there. Without giving the plot away, I found the events in the first chapter not fully dealt with in enough detail to explain the subsequent actions of Kimmo. The general story was fine - although why a provincial detective would be dealing with a case involving a high profile national tv celebrity was slightly questionable. Overall enjoyable but wanted the darkness of previous books... Will look forward to the next with anticipation...
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