Finnish crime fiction writer Seppo Sakari Jokinen (b 1949) wrote the first book in his series featuring detective Sakari Koskinen in 1996. The book sold well, and since then Jokinen has written 16 more books featuring this interesting hero. While the series sells very well in Finland, Wolves and Angels is the first of Jokinen’s books to be translated into English.
Like Jokinen himself, Detective Lieutenant Sakari Koskinen lives in the beautiful city of Tampere, the third largest city in Finland, located about 2 hours driving north of Helsinki. In Wolves and Angels (original title Hukan enkelit), we meet a divorced detective Koskinen and his son Antti. Being recently divorced, but without any new relationship, Koskinen has turned his attention to exercising; and he displays considerable “sisu” (this Finnish term refers to strength of will, determination and perseverance) as he pursues bicycling and jogging and generally tries to whip himself into better shape. As it turns out, he has much more success with this than he has with dating.
Professionally, Sakari Koskinen has his work cut out for him in Wolves and Angels. The lifeless body of a disabled man has been found. The man has been murdered. And soon the police learn that he is member of a small gang known as the “Fallen Angels,” an odd group of wheelchair-bound motorcycle enthusiasts that live together in a community health center for disabled people. As other of the inhabitants of the center are attacked, fear starts to spread among patients and nurses. Who is attacking them? Who is it that kills weak, disabled and wheel-chair bound people? What is behind these despicable acts? Is there a serial killer on the loose playing angel of mercy?
Wolves and Angels, which won the prize for Best Finnish Crime Novel in 2002, is an intriguing, well-told story about the struggles of the disabled coping with emotions and bitterness, and the difficult situation of the underpaid people who care for them. Seppo Jokinen writes in a very nuanced way, with excellent depictions of interpersonal relationships and personal challenges, which make his characters come alive in the story.
Detective Lieutenant Sakari Koskinen is an interesting character – a thoughtful, considerate and smart detective, very devoted to his work, but at times a little quick-tempered – that I already am looking forward to reading more about. The plot in Wolves and Angels is very good, and I liked the writing style as well. I am very happy that more Finnish crime fiction is becoming available in English, and found Wolves and Angels to be a very valuable addition to this growing literature!