Friday, January 8, 2016

Review of To Steal Her Love by Matti Joensuu (EuroCrime, 2008; Finnish 1993)

Detective Sergeant Timo Harjunpää of Helsinki’s violent crimes unit is having a rotten time.  He’s working the understaffed night shift and is constantly tired, he’s managed to get the wrong side of his bosses, a member of the public has put in a conduct complaint, he’s fallen in love with a colleague, and his long-lost, half-senile father has turned up and moved in.  To add to his woes he’s been given the task of tracking down a peeping tom who’s also an expert lock pick who lets himself into women’s apartment in the small hours to watch them sleep.  Every time he’s been spotted he’s managed to get away, leaving the women unnerved and some wondering whether he was every really there.  Tweety is a loner, living somewhere between reality and fantasy.  He’s also part of a criminal family.  He might be naïve about some aspects of the world, but he knows how to remain elusive.  It doesn’t help that the cop in pursuit is constantly distracted and hampered in his task.

To Steal Her Love is a police procedural set in Helsinki, though not a mystery in that the reader knows the culprit from the start.  Indeed, Joensuu’s narrative is divided into two strands.  The first charts the half-real, half-fantasist world of Tweety, a young man obsessed with beautiful women, but who is unable to approach them, instead breaking into their homes in the middle of the night to watch them sleep.  When he’s not doing that he’s hiding from his domineering mother, working as a cobbler, or helping his brothers to rob banks.  The second strand follows the home life and work of Detective Sergeant Timo Harjunpää of Helsinki’s violent crimes unit.  Harjunpää is a stoic cop who grinds out results, and is torn between two women.  Both strands are very nicely written and interwoven.  Joensuu has an eye for characters and how they’re bound together in awkward relationships and conflicts, as well as the institutional politics and personal power games of the police (he was a serving police officer for many years).  While the narrative seems to drift along and seems quite sedate, there’s actually an awful lot going on within the strands and subplots (some of which are not resolved).  The result is a nicely written, layered tale that tells a compelling and engaging story.

1 comment:

Mathew Paust said...

There's a twist: a guy who's afraid to approach women normally but not afraid to risk getting his head blown off breaking into their homes and watching them sleep. Whew. The expression "guts of a burglar" doesn't come near to covering this Tweety bird.