Monday, January 14, 2013

My First Murder

My First Murder
Author: Leena Lehtolainen (Translator: Owen Witesman)
AmazonCrossing, 2012
257 pages

The folks at AmazonCrossing have done it again, this time introducing us to Leena Lehtolainen from Finland. Lehtolainen's books featuring detective Maria Kallio have long been popular in her home country, and even inspired a Finnish TV series. My First Murder -- originally published in 1993 -- is the first book in the series and the first to be published in English (as far as I can tell).

My First Murder seems to take place in the 1980s. There's a big emphasis on Maria being a 'female' detective, and a strong sense of old boys' mentality in the police department. Maria makes it clear that she's not planning on being a police detective forever. She's just doing this temporary gig as a bridge between law school and taking her exams so she can practice law.

When the body of an old acquaintance shows up in a lake one morning and a bloody axe is found nearby, Maria finds herself in charge of -- you guessed it -- her first murder investigation. The suspects? There are at least seven of them, all members of a choir. The more Maria digs, the more dirt she finds, not just on the murder victim but on each of the suspects. Anyone of them could be the killer. Or maybe the killer is someone else entirely . . . there are several layers in this onion.

But the most interesting layer of all is Maria. Despite a few issues (she doesn't do laundry often enough, for one thing), I really liked her a lot. Hopefully the rest of the series will be translated soon, because I'd like to know what happens to Maria. Does she become a lawyer? Or does she stay with the police department? I'm curious.

I discovered My First Murder via the Amazon Prime program, which allows members to "borrow" one book per month from a sort of virtual library to read on your Kindle. If you prefer, you can purchase the Kindle version for only $2.99 as of this writing. If you like Nordic crime thrillers, definitely check it out.