Detective Maria Kallio is the first female police detective in the Violent Crime and Repeat Offender unit in Espoo, Finland.
She is Finland’s answer to Detective Emilia Cruz and I love her.
SNOW WOMAN is the fourth book in the Maria Kallio 12-book crime fiction series but a great introduction. I stumbled upon it by accident because the same reviewer trolled both SNOW WOMAN and one of my books. When I saw that Lehtolainen is Finland’s top crime fiction writer, with many awards for the Maria Kallio series, I knew I was in good company!
In SNOW WOMAN, Maria is assigned to make a presentation at a self-defense seminar at a famous women’s therapy center called Rosberga. A few days later, the director Elina Rosberg is murdered and found frozen in the surrounding forest.
Everyone who was at the center is a suspect, including a woman exiled from the ultra-conservative Laestadian religious sect, an angry pole dancer from a gritty Helsinki neighborhood, and a poet who was Elina’s sometime boyfriend.
Meanwhile, a character from a previous book, Markku “Madman” Halttunen, escapes from prison. Maria and her partner put him in jail and know he’s after revenge.
Both threads play out with help from a great cast of secondary characters including Atti, Maria’s mathematician husband; Laskinen, her handsome boss; and Ström, the hard-drinking fellow detective who constantly harasses her.
Modern Finland is on full display, as seen through Maria’s eyes. Espoo is the rapidly expanding second largest city in Finland. The seasons of long dark winters and all-too-short summers in this northern country affect moods and crime statistics. Assault, rape, and drug overdoses are common. Heavy drinking is the norm–whiskey and anise vodka are Maria’s own tipples of choice. She likes Finnish punk rock and the Ramones.
Yet fitness, environmental concern, and healthy eating are key elements of the Finnish lifestyle. Maria skis and runs, and often bikes to work while her husband rails against “private driving” and is a dedicated protester.
Maria narrates all the books, which get more complex as the series progresses in terms of both crime and her personal life. Indeed, there’s a strong “slice-of-life” element to the series as we follow Maria’s cop career. She’s often impulsive and short-tempered. Dedication to her job and obsession with crimesolving hurt her personal relationships. She works in the city but longs to be sailing or running in the forest or bird watching. Through it all we cheer for her, cringe at her mistakes, and hope she doesn’t take the wrong turns that are offered along the way.
The writing style is clean and direct. Like the Vera series by Ann Cleeves, suspicion falls on multiple characters. Details become essential to figuring out who done it. A few more speech tags (“said,” “asked,” etc.) would be nice but aren’t essential. Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce the Finnish names.
The Maria Kallio series books are published in English by Amazon Crossing, Amazon’s foreign translation subsidiary.
Find SNOW WOMAN on Amazon: https://amzn.to/36Ilhpm
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Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.