In Harri Nykanen’s Nights of Awe, 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