Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Evil Things by Katja Ivar

Hella Mauzer's talents as an investigator are being wasted in the tiny town of Ivalo. Much of her time is spent on a drunk using the local doctor's doormat as a urinal! But it is 1952 and Hella is an oddity as a formally trained officer rather than a polissyster. 

When she hears of a report of a missing man in a northern town that sits near the Soviet border, she insists on being sent to investigate. The deal is that if it is indeed a criminal investigation, she'll get paid for her time. If not, then she got a little vacation time to see the remote northern town. 

Almost as soon as Hella arrives, a body is recovered from the nearby woods. And it seems Hella might be wrong in her hunch that something untoward has happened to the missing man. But the body is that of a woman and Hella finds evidence of murder rather than the bear mauling everyone believes it to be. 

As she investigates, it occurs to Hella that the people in the tiny town are hiding things from her. But does that make one of the townspeople a killer? Or is there something larger at play? And when she identifies the body of the dead woman, she knows without a doubt that this is one case that those in charge would rather leave unsolved. 

I loved this first in the Hella Mauzer series! I know nothing about the history of Finland. And this is set in the aftermath of WWII, largely based in a town that is so close to the Soviet border that it's citizens often cross over to do their shopping. In fact, there's plenty of suspicion with regards to the townspeople and their loyalties throughout the book. 

The time period is definitely something that makes this a stand out. Ivar includes a bit of history in the afterword of the book, pointing out that Finland did indeed have female officers in the first half of the twentieth century, but they were as rare as Hella herself. 

And Hella comes up against a lot of barriers as a woman. She's not taken seriously as an officer. She's transferred from her first position for being too emotional. And she's all too aware that she needs more to back up her theories than her male colleagues. 

Hella is excellent! She's a little surly (understandably) and very clever. She's the daughter of a spy and she dropped out of medical school before becoming a cop. She's also nursing something of a broken heart from her time in Helsinki. She's got her own quirks and her own deep-set ideas. In short, she's a perfect lead for a series and I absolutely can't wait to read more!

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