The Finnish Whodunnit Society
was founded in 1984 as a cover (not covert!) organization for all friends of detective stories and crime fiction, for the purpose of promoting this literary genre and arranging various events concentrating on murder and mayhem in their fictional form.
Our emblem depicts Finland’s most famous fictional sleuth, Detective Inspector Palmu of the Helsinki CID, as portrayed in four feature films of the 60s by the actor Joel Rinne, who immortalized the bowler, the muffler, and the cigar into an immediately recognizable figure. Originally, the Palmu character was a creation of the internationally acclaimed novelist Mika Waltari for his award-winning début mystery of 1939, Kuka murhasi rouva Skrofin? (trans. into French as Qui a tué Mme Skrof?; also into Swedish, German and other European languages). Another Palmu detective novel followed immediately the next year, whereas the third and final one appeared only after a hiatus of 22 years, boosted by the successful filmatizations of the first two stories.
To promote and encourage domestic crime writing, a national prize for the best deed in the field (so that other media besides literature were eligible) was founded in 1985. The Clew of the Year celebrated its 20th anniversary in the spring 2005, with the corpus delicti of the trophy itself , a foot-high wood relief depicting Inspector Palmu, that changes hands annually, plus a diploma thumb-printed in the presence of a police officer and an engraved ceramic plate for keeps. More than a dozen international authors – among them Colin Dexter, Patricia Highsmith, Michael Dibdin, Karin Fossum, Håkan Nesser and Henning Mankell –, as well as individual titles, have also received a special commendation awarded usually for sustained excellence and/or significant contribution to the genre.
The Society publishes a quarterly journal, the Ruumiin kulttuuri(the name is a pun on ’Body Culture’), which consists of articles on crime fiction, author profiles and interviews, bibliographies, current news, and a comprehensive review section, the ”Kirjakäräjät”, or ’Capital Sentences’. The contents also include topical notes on thrillers on the silver and home screens as well as on stage, not to forget genre-related events also in other media, TV and radio.
The Society has gradually developed a publishing series of its own, with centenary celebrations of three cornerstone figures within the genre, Agatha Christie (1990), Dorothy L. Sayers (1993), and Dashiell Hammett (1994). Fourthly, there appeared, in collaboration with the Book Studio publishers, a collection of 12 essays by Finnish experts on contemporary crime writers, Murha ei tunne rajoja (”Murder, Unlimited”, 1997), ranging from such versatile authors as Eric Ambler, Patricia Highsmith, Mickey Spillane and Sjöwall-Wahlöö to the new talents of Lawrence Block, Ingrid Noll, Elizabeth George and Jerome Charyn. Pulpography (2000) by Juri Nummelin is an extensive study of American pulps published in Finnish translation 1936–89. Most recently, for the Society’s 20th anniversary, a herd of 15 crime writers were rounded up to contribute a chapter each for the first ever serial thriller of its kind: Kultainen peura (”The Golden Reindeer”) is a breathless on-the-road cross-country escapade from Lapland to Helsinki involving a heist gone wrong at the Midnight Sun Film Festival.
Besides literary delights, our stock includes other promotional commodities, such as the official Society T shirts and pins, pillowcases with apt nocturnally sinister titles, and now also postcards.
The Society, which is a non-profit organization based in Helsinki, has currently over 1 000 members from all over the country – readers, authors, translators, journalists and critics, collectors and publishers.
Why not join yourself? Affiliate members are more than welcome, and the annual membership / subscription fee is only 40 euro + postage and handling for overseas customers.
The Finnish Whodunnit Society
P.O. Box 284, 00531 Helsinki, Finland
Society: Leena Korsumäki (leena.korsumaki(at)welho.com)
Magazine Ruumiin kulttuuri: Keijo Kettunen(ruumiin.kulttuuri(at)dekkariseura.fi)
The Clew of the Year Trophy.
Actor Joel Rinne as DI Palmu.
Here you can read summaries for 2010 issues of Ruumiinkulttuuri.
Ruumiin kulttuuri 4/2010: English Summary
In recent years, Nordic crime novels have gained great international repute. One of the best-known names is Norwegian author Anne Holt, former Minister of Justice of her country. She visited Helsinki in October, around the time her 12th crime novel Pengemannen (Money Man) was released in a Finnish translation.
Holt says her books have one and the same theme. ”I always deal with family life,” she declares. A surprising theme, perhaps, in crime literature where you meet murder, evil, suspense. ”Families have secrets and big feelings, in crime books as well as in life,” Holt explains. The light and the dark you find in your family as a child stay with you a long time.
”The need for a family is a very basic need. When I travel, every day I miss my family in Oslo,” Holt confesses to her interviewer Tiina Torppa (”Anne Holt Delved into Hate Crimes”).
”The historical crime novel has been enjoying great success in the 2000s. Never before have so many books been published in this genre, and many have also been bestsellers,” Outi Karemaa writes in her extensive article where she takes a look at new historical mysteries. The books are not carved from the same block, the stories represent a wide variety of time periods, places and styles. Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire continue to be popular milieus, but many authors also locate their mysteries in the Middle Ages, in the 19th century or in the wars and turmoils of the 20th century (”Historical Crime Is Thriving Round the World”).
In Finland, few authors write historical crime. One is Ata Hautamäki whose novels depict Helsinki in the 1950s, particularly the idyllic garden suburb of Käpylä. In her essay in this issue of Ruumiin kulttuuri, Hautamäki tells us what writing epoch means to her. ”To me, nostalgia is a positive feeling. I want to revive the past on the pages of my books. Perhaps for selfish reasons only – I enjoy doing research and wallowing in memories,” she says (”The Importance of Epoch in Crime Fiction”).
With six novels in six years to his name, Tero Somppi is one of the most promising Finnish thriller writers of the 2000s. He works in the Defence Forces, with security issues, and has often located his fast-paced stories in environments he is familiar with. One of his best-known thrillers Tuomion konsertti (A Concert of Doom) has terrorists make an attack on a concert in Helsinki where a world-famous rock band is performing. The venue resembles the popular Hartwall Arena where Somppi has often been in charge of security. But ”it’s a place I have made up, I didn’t want to write a guidebook for kidnappers,” Somppi smiles. Heikki Ollikainen’s interview ”Tero Somppi Rolls Out Thrillers”.
End of October, Ari-Matti Auvinen met and interviewed English author David Hewson who attended the Helsinki Book Fair to see the first book of his eight-part Nic Costa series, A Season for the Dead, come out in a Finnish translation. Hewson says he did not want to create another conventional hero, a middle-aged, troubled and cynical policeman. And so he came up with young Nic Costa, 27, who is just beginning his career in the police force in Rome (”David Hewson and the Charm of the Eternal City”).
• Actress and script writer Liisa Nevalainen (1916–1987) had reached her pension age when she began her crime writing career. Her debut was ”The Sleeping Beauty” (1976), and in ten years she wrote eight novels of suspense, rising to the top ranks of Finnish crime fiction in the 1970s and 1980s (”Murderous Rose Thorns”).
• Researcher Voitto Ruohonen deliberates on whether crime novels can be read as working man’s literature and whether a crime author can be considered a working man’s writer. This was the subject of a literary event in Tampere (”Who Are You Waving the Flag For?”).
• Email interview of Barbara Fister, creator of Chicago private investigator Anni Koskinen (”Anni Koskinen Was Born Out of Love for Finland”).
• Who knows his/her Agatha Christie best? A quiz contest was organized at the Helsinki Book Fair, and the winner was Ulla Huhtala from the northern town of Kajaani.
• In the cinema section, inter alia, the new Finnish film directed by Olli Saarela based on Matti Joensuu’s novel The Priest of Evil, and Director Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me, film adaptation of Jim Thompson’s book (Movie Mania).
• Capital Sentences: some 50 reviews clearing the autumnal congestion of new books.
Translated by Liisa Koskinen
Ruumiin kulttuuri 3/2010: English Summary
Master of the Finnish police novel Matti Yrjänä Joensuu came back this autumn after a seven-year hiatus. Harjunpää ja rautahuone (Harjunpaa and the Iron Room) is the eleventh book about the investigations of Detective Sergeant Timo Juhani Harjunpää of the Helsinki CID.
The roots of Joensuu’s works lie in his own long career in the Helsinki police. ”It’s easier to write about what you know. I have investigated traditional homicide, cases which are mostly private. Harjunpää couldn’t be a police anywhere else but in Helsinki,” the author tells his interviewer Heikki Ollikainen.
”The world view of my books has been described as dismal. As a coroner, I once counted that I visited nearly 200 death scenes in a year and was faced with as many families’ grief and pain. When you have to deal with death this way, it doesn’t make you a humorist.”
Joensuu says the mysterious iron room of the new novel is ”the place where one stores all one’s subconscious hates and grudges. Everyone has these feelings, and they must be hidden somewhere; I believe they are conserved in that iron room.”
”Not everyone manages to keep them there. And then we have school shootings or bombs in shopping centres or killings in groups of drinking buddies.” (”Harjunpää’s Iron Hard Comeback”)
The Whodunnit Society has awarded a Hornanlinna diploma to Eeva Tenhunen for her pioneering work in the field of Finnish crime fiction. Tenhunen’s novels, published 1964–1987, are still popular, and her first murder mystery Mustat kalat (The Black Fish), located in Olavinlinna (castle in Savonlinna), is a perennial favourite, topping several reader polls over the years. The Board of the Society sums up its grounds for the award: ”At the time when Tenhunen started writing, Finnish crime fiction was almost completely dominated by male authors. For many female crime writers, she has been a forerunner and an inspiration.” (”Eeva Tenhunen, Beloved by Readers”)
It is now 120 years since the birth of Agatha Christie, the all-time queen of crime. Leena Korsumäki examines how the First World War is reflected in Christie’s early output (”Agatha Christie and the Shadows of WWI”). Korsumäki has also interviewed John Curran, the author of Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks. ”The biggest surprise was how disorganised the notebooks were. I assumed the plotting would be very ordered (as her books are) but the notes that go to make up any of her titles can be scattered over half-a-dozen notebooks. And there are very few dates included. The other big surprise was the number of plot ideas that she scribbled down but never used,” Curran tells us (”A Christie Fan’s Tough Job”).
The Private Eye novel is thriving in the early 21st century, argues Juri Nummelin, and to prove his point he has studied the works of current PI authors (Dave Zeltserman, Don Winslow, Ken Bruen, Declan Hughes, Russel D. McLean, Ray Banks et al) plus interviewed two masters of the genre, Dave White and Reed Farrel Coleman. ”As long as there are outcasts and outsiders, the PI genre will always have something to offer. The PI is the one against the many, the private citizen against the machinery of the state. The PI has always ruled the territory between the legal and the illegal and will continue to do so,” Coleman puts it (”The PI Is Alive and Kicking”).
Last year, Philip Kerr won the Spanish RBA Award with his sixth Bernie Gunther novel If the Dead Rise Not. It is the world’s biggest crime writing prize, 125,000 euros. This October sees the publication of the seventh novel featuring this Berlin private detective in 1930s to 1950s Germany. Tapani Bagge, himself a crime writer, presents us Kerr’s magnificent Gunther series which started with the Berlin Noir trilogy (1989–1991) and continued with new volumes fifteen years later (”The Private Eye in the Third Reich”).
• At a library congress in Gothenburg, Sweden, Kirsi Luukkanen met with Henning Mankell who, this time, put crime fiction on the side and concentrated on speaking for literacy in Africa (”Henning Mankell – Crime Writer and Ideologist”).
• Lea Toivola examines Timo Sandberg’s police novels in which the author sharply describes the effects of the 1990s recession on the 2000s society. His hero is Inspector Erkki Heittola from Järvenpää, a town in southern Finland (”Realistic Crime in Sure Hands”).
• Outi Karemaa, historian, PhD, Managing Director and Vice-Chair of the Whodunnit Society, tells us about ten of her favourite crime books (”My Top Ten”).
• Pike (Esox lucius) in dark beer is this issue’s dish to die for. The recipe comes from Seppo Jokinen, one of our Clew of the Year winners (”Koskinen’s Fish Tale”).
• This year, the theme of the annual Criminal Event in Kouvola was ”A Murdered Mind”. Saara Kesävuori from Tampere won the short story competition.
• The acclaimed Red Riding film trilogy, based on David Peace’s novels, is now available on DVD also in this country (”Bad, Worse, Yorkshire”).
• Capital Sentences: reviews of 50 new crime books, from Finland and further afield.
Translated by Liisa Koskinen
Ruumiin kulttuuri 2/2010: English Summary
This year we reach a milestone in this country: the first Finnish-language detective stories were published a hundred years ago. Ruumiin kulttuuri wants to take part in the centennial celebrations, and thus the theme of this issue is the history of Finnish-language crime writing.
The tradition took off with two small collections of short stories by Rikhard Hornanlinna, Kellon salaisuus (The Secret of the Clock) and Lähellä kuolemaa (Close to Death), both published in 1910. Hornanlinna, real name Rudolf Richard Ruth (1899–1957) was a colourful personality, working in his youth as a ship’s boy, a clerk, a correspondent, a calligrapher at an undertaker’s, and even as a private detective. In addition to writing detective stories he made his mark in another literary genre: he was a pioneer of Finnish science fiction under the pseudonym H. R. Halli.
In her article, Leena-Kaisa Laakso discusses Hornanlinna’s trailblazing collections. She points out that ”international influences loom in the background. Hornanlinna has read his Doyle and Poe. There’s gothic horror, there are British style country house milieus and locked rooms.” The hero of the stories is detective Max Rudolph, an intelligent Sherlock Holmes type and a solver of mysteries, with an eye for social situations (”Gothic Horror, Puzzles and Ingenious Deduction”)
Later on, Ruth continued his crime writing: a principal work, published in 1939 under the name H. R. Halli, is the novel Yhä murhat jatkuivat (And the Murders Went On) which was also adapted to the silver screen as Viimeinen vieras (The Last Guest), in 1941. Esko Ellala has dived into the archives and discovered interesting stuff about the colourful phases of the film project. The producers, chasing a contract, had to turn to advertising in newspapers in their search for the ”vanished” author (”Murders Continued on Silver Screen”).
Kaarlo Nuorvala (1910–1967), a prolific and entertaining writer, was born a century ago come end of June. He wrote detective stories and many other kinds of novels and books for the young, as well as scripts for some twenty films. New publishing houses sprouting up fast after the war badly needed printable material, and Nuorvala took up the challenge: at his hastiest he produced 250 pages in three days – in his record year of 1945, 28 books for some twenty publishers. He often used English-language pseudonyms; after the war, anything Anglo American was a plus in all areas of culture. Liisi Huhtala reminds us in her article that newspaper offices were Nuorvala’s favourite milieus, and the action often took place in America (”A Book a Month If Not Two”).
After her career in the theatre, notable actor and director Glory Leppänen (1901–1979) took to writing murder mysteries and became the leading figure of female crime writing in Finland in the 1960s. ”Her narrative style is dazzlingly dramatic. The reader gets to peek behind the curtain at the lives of the rich and famous. Hate, greed, envy, revenge and passion lurk in the midst of glamour and success. The opposites of the baddies, the threatened and the victimised, build up the suspense in Leppänen’s novels,” Veikko Lindroos observes in his extensive survey (”Journey into the Heart of Darkness”).
In the top echelon of contemporary Finnish female crime writers there is Eppu Nuotio with her five novels featuring black-skinned TV journalist Pii Marin. A common thread in the series, apart from the crime plots, is how Marin feels like an outsider, tries to find her identity and unravel the phases of her father’s life. In her interview with Heikki Ollikainen, Nuotio unexpectedly tells us she is going to end the series next year, with the sixth book. ”The one after that will be something completely different. The background work may take a couple of years,” Nuotio says (”Pii Marin to Quit Next Year”).
• Lea Toivola takes a look at policewomen created by Finnish male crime writers (”Colleagues, Sights for Sore Eyes, Rambos – and One Birdbrain”).
• Katriina Harviainen put questions to seven of this spring’s debuting crime writers: where did they get their ideas, why did they choose the crime genre, and is there perhaps already a second book in the offing (”My First Murder”).
• Leena Korsumäki met with the Swedish author Anna Janssonwho visited Finland in March (”Anna Jansson Protests against Tedious Old Age”).
• Miia Pelttari gives us an analysis of computer-wizard Lisbeth Salander, the rebellious heroine of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy (”The Common, Uncommon Story of Lisbeth Salander”).
• Author Pekka Salo began writing way back in the 1970s – we know him for his fast-paced, roguish crime novels – and now he lists ten of his favourites in the genre (”My Top Ten”).
• In the series A Dish to Die For, our cook prepares fiery pasta (Pirciati ch’abbruscianu) à la Andrea Camilleri (”Sicilian Delicacies”).
• Author Jouko Raivio digs into the history of horror films; his guide is 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die, edited by Steven Jay Schneider (”In the Halls of Horror”).
• Capital Sentences: new books published in early 2010 are justly judged.
Translated by Liisa Koskinen
Ruumiin kulttuuri 1/2010: English Summary
The Finnish Whodunnit Society gave away the annual Clew of the Year award in mid-February in snowbound Helsinki. This time it went to Marko Leino for his crime novel Ansa (Trap), judged to be the “best deed in the field” in 2009. Leino is a successful scriptwriter as well as a novelist, and the jury rightly points out that the winning novel “is characterized by fast cuts, transfers of narrative perspective from person to person”. At the core of the noir style story is illegal drug trade, increased amounts of heroin being smuggled from Russia to Western Europe. “Leino builds his novel in the way of a traditional tragedy. Choices between good and evil, right and wrong, are only weighed in the moral grey area,” the jury observes.
Leino tells his interviewer Tuula Okkonen that the plot was a surprise to the author himself. “I hadn’t consciously thought that things would go the way they did. I felt disconsolate when I saw the last picture of how the story would end,” he explains (“Marko Leino Was Trapped by His Trap”).
The special commendation reserved for a foreign author was given to P. D. James, master of modern crime writing. The Board of our Society explained the decision: “To begin with, James produced detective fiction in the classic tradition, and over the years her novels have developed into brilliant literature by any criteria. – – P. D. James is one of the crime writers whom we must thank for the increased appreciation of the genre by readers as well as critics and researchers.”
James Ellroy, superstar of American crime literature, set off an orgy of media hype when visiting Finland for the first time in early February. Among the twenty some “lucky” interviewers from the press and television was this quarterly’s Heikki Ollikainen to whom Ellroy stated that he builds his novels like symphonies. The themes are repeated, Ellroy improvises with form and says he looks for influences in Bruckner and Sibelius. The style of his novels is a mixture of ingredients: Ellroy thinks literature with no crude language is not literature at all, and not meaningful. “I care fuck all for what people think about the language in my books,” he says. (“James Ellroy Knows He’s a Genius”)
Swedish crime writer Håkan Nesser, now living in London, is known in Finland for his ten Van Veeteren novels. His more recent Barbarotti series has not yet been translated into Finnish. Nesser visited Helsinki in January and told us that he finds his relationships with the two protagonists have been quite different. Van Veeteren is ten years older than Nesser himself, so “he knows more about life than I do. I have to keep asking him ‘can I write this about you’. Barbarotti I can control. He’s some ten years younger than I am so I know what I’m talking about,” Nesser smiles (“Witty and Serious Nesser”).
“I have learnt not to kill them all at the end. The readers don’t like that either,” says French bestselling author Jean-Christophe Grangé, interviewed by Tiina Torppa in Paris. Grangé’s thrilling Miserere came out in Finnish last autumn; the author says its subject is derived from real life: “There was a horrifying sect called Coloni in Chile, practising paedophilia and violence, and that’s what I describe in my book.” (“Jean-Christophe Grangé Writes about Evil and Talks about Love”)
German author Jan Costin Wagner has located his latest crime novels in Finland, in the country’s oldest town Turku, depicting Inspector Kimmo Joentaa’s investigations. For Wagner, Finland is “another homeland”: his visual artist wife is Finnish-born and the family spend their summers in Finland, occasionally also a week or two at other times of the year. Kimmo Joentaa is a melancholy man: his wife dies at the age of 25, and Kimmo lives a kind of second life, is open to extreme situations and copes with them better than most people. “He doesn’t only solve crimes, he connects with people’s innermost feelings and knows how to help them,” Wagner says (“Wagner Composes Human Drama in Turku”).
• Kirsti Porras (1908–1986), pioneer of Finnish female crime writing, published three elegant detective novels in the war time, between 1942 and 1945. Veikko Lindroos offers us a thoroughgoing study of her life and works (“Porras and Crime”).
• Literary scholar and doctor Paula Arvas, known to this quarterly’s readers especially through her “A Dish to Die For” series, has listed her ten favourite crime books (“My Top Ten”).
• Movie Maniacs have viewed and reviewed three tough new films: Edge of Darkness, adaptation of the renowned 1980s BBC mini series, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, idiosyncratic interpretation of the classic figure, and Martin Scorsese’s masterful Dennis Lehane filmatization Shutter Island.
• Capital sentences: our incorruptible jurors pass judgment on more than 40 crime books of late 2009 and early 2010.
Translated by Liisa Koskinen
© Finnish Whodunnit Society 2012
Texts Kirsi Luukkanen, Keijo Kettunen, Janne Mäkelä, Pekka Turunen