Proper Petrona Award Contenders

Posted: April 27, 2015 in Agatha Christie, Book Awards, Finland, Norway, Scandinavia, Uncategorized

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It is sometimes difficult to get old dinosaurs like me, who are very set in their ways, to read new authors, and therefore I am grateful to the judges of the Petrona Award in adding two impressive authors, new to me, to their shortlist. I have now read four of the shortlisted six books, and may possibly have the time to read one more book before the winner is announced.

HummThe Hummingbird by Kati Hiekkapelto, translated from the Finnish by David Hackstrom, is an excellent police procedural with an interesting female main protagonist, Anna Fekete, a Hungarian immigrant from the northern part of the former Yugoslavia. The book begins with a murder, and as more murders occur and a serial killer investigation begins, it widens its remit to deal with the problems of multiculturalism in a democratic society.

Although Anna has lived in Finland for most of her life and speaks perfect Finnish she faces a lot of antagonism from Esko, one of the police team. Esko could be classified easily as a racist, or is he just someone very scared of the changes in Finnish society.

As a rule, minorities weren’t oppressed in the former Yugoslavia- except for the Roma, a sin of which the whole world is guilty. 

 

A subplot and another narrative theme blended into the story involves a Kurdish family, and the possible forced marriage or even “honour killing” of their daughter. We also learn about Anna’s family life, her brother, Akos, has failed to adjust to life in Finland and can’t even speak the local language, while her sexual liaisons and the marital problems of her fellow team members add to the interest.

Finland it seems has a difficult combination of problems with wide gun ownership, and heavy alcohol consumption. The Hummingbird is yet another excellent Scandinavian crime book that adds a layer of realism to the  myth of Scandinavia’s social democratic utopia. This is definitely a strong contender for the Petrona Award. 

Bihar Chelkin is lying. I’m convinced this is a matter of honour violence,’ Anna said eventually. She felt compelled to repeat herself  one last time, especially to that arsehole.  

‘Finnish law doesn’t recognise such a crime,’ he replied impassively.

The Human Flies by Hans Olav Lahlum translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson is a very different book. This novel is set  in theflies distant past, 1968, when I was a young man in my prime, and the world was almost in as big mess as it is today. 

The story told in a crisp first person narrative by young detective Inspector Kolbjorn Kristiansen, known as K2, is a variation on the locked room mystery being a tribute or pastiche of an Agatha Christie novel. The English country house mystery moved to an Oslo apartment block at 25 Krebs’ Street. The victim is Harald Olesen, one of the heroes of Norway’s wartime resistance movement to the Nazi occupation, and a cabinet minister in the post war period. When Kolbjorn begins to unravel the lives of the other occupants of 25 Krebs’ Street he finds a group of people who underneath a facade of comparative respectability have many secrets. Kolbjorn has few leads, and when a friend of his parents Professor Borchmann tells him that his daughter Patricia, an eighteen year old girl with a brilliant mind, who is confined to a wheelchair, can help him he accepts the offer. Patricia swiftly solves the mystery of how the locked room murder was committed, but the pair still have to discover the identity of the murderer. She has worked out how, now we want to know why and that will lead to who.

Kjolborn and Patricia uncover a web of lies and intrigue, marital infidelity, love affairs, wartime treachery and collaboration as they hunt for the killer. 

Those who enjoy Agatha Christie novels, and good crime fiction will love the twists and turns in this tale. The Human Flies is yet another contender for the Petrona Award, and I congratulate the judges on providing readers with such a strong shortlist. 

‘He is everything that I have ever dreamed of in a man. There is a physical aspect, obviously. I have always been attracted to to blond men of my height, and he has just the right physique and is so elegant’………….[my comment: he also has a wife and young baby]

………….

As I walked down the stairs, I pondered whether the ever more mysterious Sara Sundqvist had been aware of the fact that I too was a blond and well-built man of about her height.  

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Comments
  1. I’m very glad you found some new authors to enjoy, Norman. I appreciate the Petrona Award panel very much on that score as well. It’ll be interesting to see which novel is chosen this year…

    • Norman Price says:

      Margot, it must be a very difficult job having to wade through dozens of books to find a few gems. As far as the Petrona winner is concerned I usually try to think of which book would dear Maxine have enjoyed best. With the four books I have read from the excellent shortlist I am fairly certain which one should be the winner. 😉

  2. Sarah says:

    Thank you, Norman. A very nice post and I’m glad you liked the two books.

    • Norman Price says:

      Sarah, just when I decided I would stick with my usual suspects [Nesser, Marklund, and Persson] you and the other judges came up with two new gems for me to read.
      Raymond Chandler wrote in the Simple Art of Murder that while the average novel never gets published, the average crime novel does. Or something like that.
      The problem has been recently that any old book, or TV program, as long as it is Nordic gets published or shown on TV.
      Unfortunately they haven’t all been of the same standard as The Killing, Borgen or The Hunting Dogs.

  3. […] (Sarah), Amazon Customer Review (Simon Clarke), Crime Fiction Lover (Marina Sofia) and at Crime Scraps Review […]

  4. Kathy D. says:

    Thanks, Norman, for the fascinating post. I will try to read both books. I have The Human Flies, just have been too busy to read much except the new Camilleri. But that is next on my TBR pile.
    Would sometime like to hear what you think is the best novel for the Petrona, and which Maxine would have liked the most.

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