Nothing But The Truth, by Jarkko Sipila

by Peter

Nothing But The Truth, Jarkko SipilaNothing But The Truth is the third book translated into English in the prize-winning crime fiction series Helsinki Homicide by Finnish writer Jarkko Sipila. Like the two previous books in the series, it focuses on the Violent Crimes Unit in the Helsinki Police. The key characters are Detective Lieutenant Kari Takamäki and the undercover detective Suhonen. Like the previous books, Nothing But The Truth too is a noir crime fiction novel, written in a relatively stark and direct style.

Outside an apartment building in Helsinki, a young cocaine dealer is gunned down. Detective Lieutenant Kari Takamäki and his homicide team move quickly and succeed in finding and arresting the shooter, a well known criminal named Esa Nyberg. So far so good. But Nyberg doesn’t talk – all he says is “No comment”. Even though they have the killer, Takamäki and his team want more: They want to know why the dealer was shot. And – in particular – they want to know who ordered the killing.

The Violent Crimes unit knows most of what there is to know about the criminal underworld in Helsinki. And they know Nyberg works with a very ruthless psychopath and crime boss named Risto Korpi. They suspect he is the man behind the execution. But pinning the crime on him will be difficult unless someone talks. But, as Takamäki know too well – Korpi and his men will not talk.

Then, after the police have issued a statement to the media and asked witnesses to the crime to step forward, a woman from a neighboring building – a lady with photographic memory – comes forward with an image of the getaway driver’s face and the registration number of the car. All the pieces fall into place, and Korpi is arrested and brought to trial.

However, after testifying, the witness, Mari Lehtonen finds herself the target of an escalating spiral of threats. To protect her, the police whisk her away to a “safe house”. But staying there means that both Mari and her daughter must give up their ordinary lives – no job, no school, no shopping, and no freedom. Mari doesn’t want that. She is not a criminal, just a citizen doing her duty. Why should she be punished? Why should she be forced to give up her life? She moves out of the safe house with her daughter. The prize she now has to pay for her principles are high – threats, attempts at her life, threats directed at her daughter. As the threats mount, she is torn between her principles and her desire to keep her family safe. Is this all Finland can and will do for her? How much should an ordinary citizen sacrifice for the benefit of society as a whole?

This is a marvelous crime fiction novel and in my opinion the best so far from Jarkko Sipila. Its treatment of the relationship between the police and the media is superb and very entertaining. Also, like Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström’s Three Seconds – which pointed a critical finger at the use of police informants – Nothing But The Truth too raises a timely and very important question: What can be done to make certain that citizens that do their duty in the criminal justice system do not risk ruining their lives when they do so?

Moreover, the book not only raises important questions, it is also a very entertaining, suspenseful and excellently plotted crime fiction novel. The writing style is just right for the story, and the plot has all the twist and turns an excellent crime fiction novel should have, along with a delightful ending. I strongly recommend Nothing But The Truth – it’s dark, fascinating, important and delicious.

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