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Joensuu, Matti - 'The Priest of Evil' (translated by David Hackston)
Paperback: 204 pages (May 2006) Publisher: Arcadia Books ISBN: 1900850931

THE PRIEST OF EVIL is the tenth and latest in the Detective Sergeant Timo Harjunpaa, of the Helsinki Violent Crimes Unit, series and the second to be translated into English. The fourth in the series, HARJUNPAA AND THE STONE MURDERS, was translated in 1986, but is difficult to get hold of in the UK.

THE PRIEST OF EVIL is told from multiple points of view and encompasses a large cast. Though Harjunpaa is the detective, his narrative only forms about a third of the book. 'The Priest of Evil' is a major contributor. He lives in the underground system, worshipping the mountain god Maammo and working towards bringing about the 'New Holy Big Bang', by sacrificing people to the Apostles of Maammo, the underground trains. The police begin to realise that there have been several deaths by people falling in front of trains where the victims do not appear to have been suicidal. They link these deaths to a woman who preaches and gives out leaflets in the train stations, not realising that she and the 'priest' are one and the same.

Other points of view include those of a couple of children who are unwittingly going to help bring about the 'New Big Bang'.

I have to say that this wasn't a very enjoyable reading experience for me. I'm not a big fan of the 'mad' serial killer type of book and this had rather too much detail from the 'priest's' point of view, which was slow, repetitious and baffling whereas I wanted to read about the police investigation into catching him. In fact the police seem to be the least developed characters in the book.

I enjoy reading crime novels from abroad to get a look at other places and lives but I didn't get much of a feel for Helsinki, though the train stations and underground were well realised in terms of sounds and smells.

Finally, it niggled me that the priest's mind control abilities were never explained and there is a very odd ending involving Harjunpaa.

I really wanted to like this but in the end it was a big disappointment.

Karen Meek, England
July 2006

last updated 22/03/2008 19:42