Review of Cold Trail by Jarkko Sipila

Cold Trail, the latest volume in the award-winning Finnish police procedural series to be translated into English, continues the no-nonsense, realistic, essentially human style established in the previous books in the series. (This one has a new translator, however – Kristian London, whose English version is nearly as flawless as Peter Ylitalo Leppa’s translations of the previous books.) cold trail

In Cold Trail, a man who has been serving a prison sentence for murdering his wife in a drunken argument is escorted by prison guards to his father’s funeral, after which he takes advantage of the guard’s inattention to slip away. As the police pursue the escaped convict, they begin to question whether he may have actually been falsely convicted.

While a team of detectives work on the case, Kari Takamaki’s son is knocked off his bike in a hit-and-run incident. Though police in another jurisdiction are supposedly dealing with the crime, Takamaki investigates on his own, knowing they aren’t putting much effort into it.

The story proceeds, alternating perspectives of the police team on the hunt and the escaped convict, who insists on his innocence and is bent on evening the score. It builds to a dramatic conclusion, but also ends on an intriguing note of ambiguity that left me thinking about the book after I had finished reading it.

In an era in which thrillers tend to involve heroes saving the world from terrorist plots or tormented cops who up against deranged serial killers with a florid taste in gruesome murder scenes, Sipila’s series offers refreshingly down-to-earth but thoroughly involving stories in which the criminals are not monsters and the cops are not gods. I particularly liked  the way our understanding of the escaped criminal got more and more complicated as his flight proceeded.

I’m very pleased that Ice Cold Crime is publishing them in well-translated and affordable editions, and grateful to the publisher for providing me with a review copy. It took me a while to read it, though, because my husband grabbed it first. He liked it, too.

I reviewed previous books in the series:

There’s also an interview with the author at The Big Thrill.

Jarkko Sipila, June 15th

Finnish author Jarkko Sipila will be appearing at Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis on June Cold Trail - Siplia15th between noon and 2pm. I’ve read and reviewed three of the four police procedurals by Sipila now available in English, thanks to a small publisher devoted to translations of crime fiction from Finland, Ice Cold Crime. All of the translations by Peter Ylitalo Leppa have been excellent. The series has won awards in Finland and has been made into a television series.

I hope to have a review of the fourth – Cold Trail – up soon, but I have to get it away from my husband first. (He gives it high marks.)

Sipila’s books are characterized by gritty realism, with a group of cops led by Kari Takimaki who we get to know quite well doing their best to maintain the peace in a country where Eastern and Western Europe collide and the criminals are bad guys, but entirely human. I’m looking forward to reading the latest entry and grateful to Ice Cold Crime for bringing them to an English-speaking audience.

If you make it to Once Upon a Crime, hang out and you’ll get to meet Craig Johnson (author of the Walt Longmire series) who will be arriving at 3:30. Once Upon a Crime is a happening place, as Shamus could tell you.

seamus at OUAC