Today it’s my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for Evil Things by Katja Ivar. It’s a fascinating combo of Cold War political thriller with a hint of Scandi noir and a riveting murder mystery.
About the Author
Katja Ivar grew up in Russia and the U.S. She travelled the world extensively, from Almaty to Ushuaia, from Karelia to Kyushu, before finally settling in Paris where she lives with her husband and three children. She received a B.A. in Linguistics and a master’s degree in Contemporary History from Sorbonne University. Evil Things is her debut novel.
About the book
Lapland, Finland, 1952. It’s the height of the Cold War and Finland is a snow-smothered powder keg. Sharing a long border with the Soviet Union the country is engaged in a high-wire act of protecting its independence from its sometimes dangerous neighbour.
Hella Mauzer is the first female Inspector in the Helsinki Homicide Unit. Or was, until she was deemed too ‘emotional’ for the job and reassigned to Lapland. When a man disappears from a remote village on the Soviet border, Hella jumps at the chance to investigate. Her boss is sceptical; after all, people disappear in the snows of Finland all the time. Then a body is found. But the small village of Käärmela is harbouring a second crime. A crime whose evil is of another magnitude.
I can imagine some readers may be inclined to overlook this book because the title suggests something more along the genre of horror. Luckily the blurb allays any such notion, because this is the perfect book for lovers of Scandinavian crime and Cold War fiction to dip into.
I’ll admit it took me by surprise. It is well-written and plotted with a fantastically obnoxious and eccentric main character. I think Hella Mauzer might be my grumpy soul spirit living in the type of freezing environment I would never venture into or live in.
One of the most annoying and most poignant points the author makes in the story is the second-class status of females in the police force during more than the first half of the twentieth century. Women were perceived, as is Mauzer, to be too emotional and fragile to work as effective police officers. They certainly weren’t allowed anywhere near a crime scene. Good gosh, they might cry or be overwhelmed with emotions. They should be at home making babies and baking cookies, waiting for their partners, who clearly have to be chosen by other people, because hey we all know women weren’t capable of making lucid choices for their own future. ‘Sigh.’
Those kind of attitudes are enough to drive anyone to become withdrawn or spend a lifetime pretending to be something they aren’t. They certainly do nothing for the career Hella wants to expand and enjoy. Instead she is blocked, deterred and insulted at every opportunity by the colleagues who should have her back, which leaves her in dangerous situations at times.
Unlike her male colleagues, Hella has a nose for crime. She has a gut instinct for things that just don’t seem quite right, but gut instinct just screams women’s intuition to her boss, which means he ignores her observations.
She heads up to an isolated area in Lapland to investigate the disappearance of a man, after his young grandson is found cold and hungry in their cabin. Everything Hella finds out suggests she would never leave the boy alone for six days, well not voluntarily. So, where the heck is he?
It’s a fascinating combination of Cold War political games with a hint of Scandi Noir, and a riveting murder mystery. The main character and the way she reacts to her environment and other people is what gives this read a flair of eccentric humour. You can almost imagine her stomping off into the cold or interviewing suspects with her brusque and less than charming manner.
I commend Ivar for coming up with a character who has to try and solve crimes within the constraints of misogyny and misguided misconceptions. She is without a doubt a writer to watch out for.