Authors: Jan Costin Wagner
‘In his own careful, nuanced language, Wagner brings the reader close not only to the psyche of his characters but also to the beauty of Finland.’
Every year since the tragic death of his wife Detective Kimmo Joentaa has prepared for the isolation of Christmas with a glass of milk and a bottle of vodka to arm him against the harsh Finnish winter. However, this year events take an unexpected turn when a young prostitute turns up on his doorstep.
Not long afterwards one of Kimmo’s colleagues, a forensic pathologist, is found murdered and Finland’s most famous talk-show host is brutally attacked. When it becomes clear that the pathologist had recently been a guest on the star’s show, Kimmo is called upon to use all his powers of intuition and instinct to solve the case. Meanwhile the killer is lying in wait, ready to strike again …
In Kimmo Joentaa, prize-winning author Jan Costin Wagner has created a lonely hero in the Philip Marlowe mould, who uses his unusual gifts for psychological insight to get deep inside the minds of the criminals he pursues.
‘Literature explores human abysses … Jan Costin Wagner is remarkably good at this.’ Andrea Maria Schenkel, author of
The Murder Farm
Jan Costin Wagner was born in 1972 in Langen/Hesse near Frankfurt. After studying German language, literature and history at Frankfurt University, he went on to work as a journalist and freelance writer. He divides his time between Germany and Finland (the home country of his wife). His previous crime novels featuring Detective Kimmo Joentaa are
won the 2008 German Crime Prize.
been planning to spend the last hours of Christmas Eve on his own, but it didn’t turn out like that.
He had applied early to be on duty on 24 December, as in previous years, and he spent the day in the quiet police building, which might have been deserted.
Sundström was on a skiing holiday, Grönholm was in the Caribbean – a long-cherished dream – and Tuomas Heinonen went home early in the afternoon to decorate the Christmas tree and put on a Santa Claus costume for his family. He could be reached there if anything suddenly came up, but nothing did.
Joentaa dealt with some paperwork that could have waited. The radio was playing Christmas music: violin, piano and the high, clear voices of a children’s choir. After that a philosopher who was also a theologian explained that Jesus Christ had in fact been born in summer. Joentaa stopped work for a moment and tried to concentrate on the voice on the radio, but the programme had already gone back to music, some kind of Christmas rap. He frowned and turned back to the sheet of paper in front of him.
Early in the evening he strolled through the large hall to the cafeteria, which was in darkness. The only light came from the Christmas tree decorated in red and gold standing next to the drinks machine.
It was snowing outside the window. Joentaa sat down at one of the tables. There was a plate of biscuits on it.
Star-shaped biscuits. Joentaa took one, tasted maple syrup on his tongue, breathed in the aroma of pine needles, and saw a woman standing in the entrance area near the reception desk. He thought there was something odd about her. She stood there motionless. Joentaa waited for a while, but the woman didn’t move, and did not seem to be surprised to find no one at reception. None of the uniformed police officers who hurried past now and then thought of asking what she wanted, but that didn’t appear to bother her either.
The woman was watching the snow falling on the other side of the glass. She was small and slim – in her mid-twenties, he thought. Her hair was long and blonde, and she was chewing gum. She remained as motionless as ever when Joentaa went towards her, even when he was right in front of her and trying to meet her eyes.
‘Excuse me?’ he said.
The young woman turned away from the windows. Her cheeks were flushed and swollen.
‘Can I … are you all right?’ asked Joentaa.
‘Rape,’ said the woman.
‘You mean …’
‘I’ve been raped. I want to report it to the police, you idiot.’
‘Sorry. Can I … let’s go to my office for a start.’
‘Ari Pekka Sorajärvi,’ said the woman
‘That’s the name of the man I want to report.’
‘Come along,’ said Joentaa, trying to lead the way, but the woman did not move.
Her voice was soft as she said, ‘I’d like to go home soon. Can’t you take it all down here?’
‘Sorry, no. Some colleagues of mine ought really to be doing this anyway. I could take your statement and then pass it on, but I have to get it on the computer in any case.’
She seemed to hesitate briefly, then followed him over to the lift.
Dim neon lighting illuminated the third floor. A bleat of laughter came from one of the offices.
‘It’s creepy up here,’ she said.
‘Some of the neon tubes have gone. It’s usually brighter,’ said Joentaa.
‘I see,’ said the woman, and seemed to smile, although Joentaa wasn’t sure.
‘Have you been to the hospital?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ said Joentaa.
‘It’s not that bad,’ she said.
‘I … I could drive you there later,’ said Joentaa. ‘It’s possible … well, traces might still be found, and they could be important if the case comes to trial.’
‘Just type this shit into the computer and then I’m going home.’
‘You don’t have to keep saying sorry for anything and everything.’
Joentaa nodded, and led her into his office. The computer monitor was flickering. The screen saver showed the red church at Lenganiemi. Sanna was buried in the graveyard behind it.
The world outside the windows was dark and white. The woman looked at him expectantly.
‘Sorry. Do sit down,’ said Joentaa.
stop saying sorry for everything?’
Joentaa tried to concentrate on the screen and the keyboard. He searched about for a while and finally found the program with the requisite form. Name, address, date of birth.
‘What’s your name?’ he began.
‘Your name. I need it for the …’
‘What does my name matter? I’ve been raped by Ari Pekka Sorajärvi and I want to report it.’
The woman uttered a long, high-pitched scream. Joentaa looked at her. She sat there apparently motionless and relaxed, and apart from her slightly opened mouth there was nothing to suggest that she was the person emitting this scream. A shrill, numb kind of scream.
The scream went on and on, and a colleague hurried into the room. ‘Everything all right here?’ he asked.
‘Yes, no problem,’ said Kimmo Joentaa.
‘Okay,’ said his colleague. He hesitated for a moment, then wished Joentaa good luck and closed the door.
Joentaa looked at the woman sitting opposite him and smiling. He could still hear her scream ringing in his ears.
‘Henrikinkatu 28,’ said the woman in a matter-of-fact voice.
‘That’s Ari Pekka Sorajärvi’s address.’
‘Is he …’
‘Ari Pekka Sorajärvi.’
‘Yes, is he or was he your boyfriend?’
‘Are you … er, living with or married to Ari Pekka Sorajärvi?’
The woman stared at him. ‘No, I’m not,’ she said at last.
‘Then how …’
‘Ari Pekka Sorajärvi is a client,’ she said.
Joentaa did not reply.
‘A punter. Sex for money. Ever heard of it?’
‘So he is …’
‘My best client, if you really want to know. Always wanting a bit more than the others, but he paid a proper price for it.’
‘I understand,’ said Joentaa.
‘Well, that’s nice,’ she said.
‘But … how do you know his name? Isn’t it usual for people to stay anonymous in, well … in such circles …’
The woman laughed. Laughed at him. Laughed so loud that his worried colleague would be back in the doorway again any moment now.
‘You’re so inhibited,’ she said, with a new tone in her voice and a different vocabulary. ‘You have to learn to recognise and express your own sexuality. You’d better begin with a film. A porn film. They can be a real help, believe me. Or maybe that’s not your problem, and you have to work on a drastic reduction in your consumption of porn films instead.’ She stopped, focused on him, her eyes slightly narrowed, and seemed to be thinking. ‘Anyway, it’s one or the other. A case of either–or,’ she concluded.
Several seconds passed.
‘There could be something in that,’ said Kimmo Joentaa.
Now the woman was smiling suddenly, and for the first time it was a friendly smile. Joentaa returned it.
They sat smiling at each other, or maybe past each other.
Joentaa didn’t know which.
‘And in case you’re surprised that I know Ari Pekka Sorajärvi’s name and address,’ she said, throwing something down on the snow-white table between them, ‘it’s because I nabbed his driving licence just now while he was seeing to his broken nose.’
IT’S ONLY A
picture. A picture that can’t be covered up. Cover the picture with a white cloth. A cloth of impenetrable whiteness.
She knows it won’t work any more. Belief in whiteness covering everything up used to be important to her, but now she’s lost her faith in it.
She lays a white cloth over her thoughts, and watches it fall into its component parts in a soundless process of dissolution, revealing the view of another cloth, a blue one.
The blue cloth is lifted. A man is lying under the blue cloth. The man has one leg. The leg is a stump. Half of it is missing. The other leg isn’t there at all.
The man lies on the stretcher in an unnaturally cramped position, his skin has a dark tinge. Beside the man is the blue cloth, above him a laughing face. And another. And another.