Sunday, March 2, 2014

My First Murder (Maria Kallio, #1)My First Murder by Leena Lehtolainen
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Leena Lehtolainen’s novel “My First Murder” begins with a member of a student choir getting killed during a practice session outing in Helsinki, Finland. I did not like the book at all, but the opinion is mainly based on my specific tastes in mystery, suspense, and thriller novels. Other readers, with different tastes, may like the book a lot, and rate it highly.

In a sense, the novel resembles a “closed-group whodunit”; we are basically told that only one of the seven choir members may be the killer. However, unlike in many classical mysteries, it is not an amateur who attempts to solve the case, but an actual police detective. There are some “police procedural” threads in the novel, but the fact that the detective (Maria Kallio) is friends with or at least an acquaintance of the suspects makes the police procedural thread not quite plausible. A “closed-group whodunit” happens to be my least favorite genre, because I am absolutely not interested in solving the puzzle.

I love reading books because I like learning about people, places, and cultures. For instance, I learned about Glasgow from Denise Mina, about Paris from Georges Simenon, and about Amsterdam from Nicholas Freeling. The only thing I learned about Finland from the novel was that its inhabitants have propensity for heavy drinking. The book does not convey any feel for the place and the plot could be happening anywhere. Nor did I learn anything about human psychology and motives of human behavior from this novel. It is full of amateurish, pop psychology, on the level of college freshmen class.

The writing is far from stellar; particularly the dialogues sound stilted and not realistic. I am not sure whether it is the writer’s or the translator’s fault. A lot of descriptions are totally redundant - do we really need to know how ice cream cone melts on Ms. Kallio’s shirt?

The book gets a little bit more interesting towards the end and, as I mentioned earlier, readers with taste in mystery different than mine may rate it much higher. However, for me, the genre, the lack of depth and lame writing/translation are worth only

One and a half stars.

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