My First Murder
Review: A weekend gettogether at a seaside summerhouse turns deadly when one of the participating members is found dead in the water, his head bashed in, in My First Murder, the first mystery in this series by Leena Lehtolaninen. It was originally published as Ensimmäinen murhani in the author's native Finland in 1993.
Maria Kallio of the Violent Crime Unit is assigned to lead the investigation. Though relatively new to the police force, she's second in command behind her perpetually drunk (and absent) boss, Sergeant Kalevi Kinnunen. The dead man, Tommi Peltonen, is not unknown to Maria; her college roommate had dated him. It is at his family's summerhouse that eight members of a double quartet were staying, ostensibly to practice for an upcoming summer event. All seemed to be having a good time, however, and no one missed Tommi until the day after a long night of partying. After interviewing everyone else staying in the house, Maria still has no clue as to who — or why — someone might have wanted Tommi dead. "The only was I was going to get any clarity was through hard work, good questioning, and careful listening. The homicides I had solved until now had been simple: a drunk putting a knife in a drinking buddy's chest or a hatchet in his wife's head. But those had all been manslaughter. Was this my first murder?"
There's not much depth to My First Murder. Written from the perspective of Maria, she does a lot of "telling": at first introducing herself (at length) to the reader and then proceeding to relate every last detail about what she's doing during the investigation and why she's doing it. She's also not shy about commenting about — and judging — everyone around her. The narrative comes across as decidedly flat, a kind of interminable monologue more than anything else. And, unfortunately, Maria is simply not all that interesting of a character. It's as if she is supposed to be some sort of anti-hero heroine, or anti-establishment official, or anti-this to that … but it none of these ever quite ring true. The murder mystery itself has a couple of interesting elements to it, as does this Finnish slice of life for a group of 20-somethings, but overall this police procedural lacks both tension and energy.
Acknowledgment: AmazonCrossing provided an ARC of My First Murder for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in My First Murder: Finland
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My First Murder by Leena Lehtolainen — A Maria Kallio Mystery
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: December 2012
List Price: $14.95