at the Finnish line – and more

Glenn Harper reviews Matti Joensuu’s To Steal Her Love at International Noir Fiction, pointing out that the vagaries of translation have really hampered access to this Finnish writer’s work: “of Joensuu’s 10 novels, we have only the ones written at 10-year intervals.” But he looks on the bright side: “However unfortunate it is that we have to wait, and that there are 7 of Joensuu’s novels featuring Helsinki detective Timo Harjunpää still untranslated, we are lucky to now have To Steal Her Love, which succeeds on every level.” It features the p.o.v. of an unusual criminal who sees the colors of tumblers as he pickes locks and animates everything in his environment. “He names everything that is important to him: each of his feet has a name, his flashlight and knife have names, and he gives his own names to the women whose apartments he enters when they are asleep.” He concludes: “This is a book that deserves a wide audience, much wider than Joensuu has up to now received in the English-speaking world.” I’m sold.

Speaking of Finnish writers, an English translation of Jarkko Sipila’s Helsinki Homicide: Against the Wall has just come on the market from a small publishing start up in my home state of Minnesota. Since the publisher shares the same last name, it’s quite possibly a family affair. In any case, Finland has a lively crime fiction scene, so more translations are always welcome.

If you’re in a betting mood, you can predict who you think will win the international dagger at Euro Crime – or vote for the book you wish would win – or take a poll on which ones you’ve read at Kerrie’s Mysteries in Paradise (on the right-hand side of the page). Norm (aka Uriah) calculates the odds based on translators and their past credits (fascinating!) while wondering where all the German and Dutch books are.

Sunnie has a review of Camilla Lackberg’s The Preacher up on her blog. She found it full of good twists and turns and seamlessly translated.

Ed Siegel reviews Henning Mankell’s Italian Shoes for the Boston Globe and finds it both almost comically morose (the main character has a dreary life and even his cat is on the verge of death) but also a surprisingly good read, and better than other of Mankell’s standalones.

And finally,Mike Goodridge at Screen Daily opines that the success of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy may predict a new sort of pan-European blockbuster based on the appeal of Lizabeth Salander.

So what makes Millennium special? It is, after all, 152 minutes long and in Swedish. Perhaps the 14 million readers around the globe of the late Stieg Larsson’s three novels know the secret – principally the title character, a twentysomething sociopath called Lisbeth Salander who is also a brilliant computer hacker.

In Salander, audiences have found a thoroughly original heroine or anti-heroine. Prone to violence and anti-social behaviour, she is pierced, tattooed and bisexual. Played in the film by newcomer Noomi Rapace, she is also a crusader trying to clear her name and a righteous defender of women against the abuses of men.

The character is not too distant from Jason Bourne or Daniel Craig’s James Bond – ruthless, homicidal kind-of-good guys out for blood.

Only female. Bisexual. Wounded. Quite a variation on the theme, but the most popular figure in a whole crop of kick-ass outsider women who have cropped up in the genre lately (and for the most part written by male authors such as Tim Maleeny and Greg Rucka), an interesting development in the gendering of crime fiction.