Nykanen, Harri. “Behind God’s Back”, translated by Kristian London, Bitter Lemon Press, 2014.
Book Two of the Ariel Kafka Series
Ariel Kafka is a Jewish police inspector from Finland and is the hero of this mystery series. Kafka is a pursuer of truth and he has to deal with international intrigue and high-level corruption. The book follows Ariel Kafka’s pursuit of the truth regarding the murder of a fellow Jew. I find it very interesting that there are Jews in Finland and I am sure that there are many other readers who are also surprised by this literary tidbit. Making this book all the more interesting is the look at the Helsinki’s Jewish community in Finland. In fact, the Jewish community actually becomes a character in the story.
Kafka is one of the two Jewish cops in Helsinki and he is a lieutenant in the Violent Crime Unit. He identifies himself as a policeman first, then a Finn, and lastly a Jew. Kafka is something like the twice a year Jews that we are familiar with and I sue that as something of a metaphor for the non-observant Jews all over the world.
Kafka is so dedicated to his career that he is actually willing t put his life on the line for it. This is probably also the reason that he never married—his career comes before anything else. (I would love to see how he dealt with the Fergusson case in St. Louis). As he begins his investigation of the murder of a Jewish businessman, He realizes that it is surrounded by very dark happenings— Neo-Nazi violence, intergenerational intrigue and shady loans. He uses predictable lines of investigation and these lead him to some totally unpredictable culprits. But then a second killing happens closer to home, and the Finnish Security Police come knocking. We learn that the Mossad from Israel also has something to do with the dark occurrences in Helsinki and before long Kafka must deal with the greatest intelligence organization in the world.
By bringing together Finland, a mystery and a Jew, we get a whole other look at the country. We see professional responsibility clash with Jewish themes and we get the benefit for an exciting and well-written novel.