FTC Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Light in a Dark House is a very moody crime novel set in Finland that is in part a police procedural, but it doesn’t really adhere to that genre. After a very effective and non-graphic prologue (bravo!), the book opens with a rather long setpiece at Kimmo Joentaa’s boss’s fiftieth birthday party, a party that the grieving widower Joentaa attends with his girlfriend Larissa, who leaves him the day after the party. Not only does he miss his dead wife, he misses the enigmatic Larissa throughout the book. Costin Wagner focuses on the characters a great deal and their grief, and grief is also key to the crimes they investigate in this book.
The plot alternates between the present day starting with the murder of a comatose woman in a hospital and a horrid crime that happened during the summer of 1985 which is captured in enigmatic diary entries that become clearer as the book progresses. It’s a story about violence against women and the effects of the crime on those who didn’t try to stop the crime. The mood is quite sad.
Joentaa is a compelling character not only for his personal life but for his intuitive investigatory style. The experience of reading the book is very much like being in Joentaa’s head as impressions of the investigation wash over him. It’s hard to capture a mind at work, but Costin Wagner does it very well. It’s also a book that has stayed with me: it’s not a book with a gripping plot that I immediately forget, but the events and the mood have lingered.
Finally, this is the first book I’ve read that’s set in Finland, and the Finnish touches that stood out to me, besides the names, dealt with food: tundraberry ice cream and brightly colored muesli jumped out at me. Sometimes the oddest flourishes in a book stick with me.
I very much look forward to catching up with this series.