The Seven Symphonies: A Finnish Murder Mystery (英語) ペーパーバック – 2005/1/31
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A serial killer stalks young musicians in Helsinki. Why does he appear to associate each attack with a symphony of the great Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius? This disturbing exploration of sexual obsession culminates in a compelling, suspenseful denouement.
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If I have a complaint it is probably an odd one. I simply did not come away with much of a feeling that this book was really set in Finland. Sure, there were street names, Metro stops, and the odd historical reference. But at the end of the day it simply felt too British. Could have been Liverpool. Not enough reference to local food, city atmospherics, demographics, politics or layout, etc. I know readers may disagree about this particular criticism, but good detective novels or thrillers can be wonderful travel books. Nothing in this one persuades me I should hop on a plane and go to Helsinki. I did go to St. Petersburg, and when I passed the Finland Station gave it the odd thought, but nothing here suggests I should have hopped a train and spent a few days there.
In the end, I'd have to say no, except for the geographical and temporal considerations, the Sibelius mood/meaning aspect is largely absent. The Sibelius connection is not entirely gratuitous, as it is worked into the landscape and to an extent the motives. But it is fair to say that the entire book could have been plotted without the lectures or the musicology. The author's inclusion of lectures dumped into the middle of an ongoing narrative that demanded a lot of attention to detail so as not to lose the thread could be called distracting. However, I learned about music and Sibelius's life, so I don't consider the time wasted. I suspect the author at one point had grander ideas of how to better integrate a truly Sibelian mentality into the plot but in the end got defeated, and yet could not entirely rid himself of this obsession. Apt, considering how the plot works itself out.
I will echo what others hear have said about the plotting, the intelligence, the insight, and the language the author employs. I could not put the book down and was grateful I had a holiday that afforded me the time to sit with it for hours. I especially loved the excursion to the countryside and the observations about the Finns and Helsinki, which I have never visited. I'm now afraid I have to go and see for myself. Sounds like a small but very delightful and engaging city.
I do want to chide the author for the perfectly awful job of book design and typesetting. The cover is ugly ugly ugly. The typesetting inside is crude and unimaginative. I understand self-publishers may only have basic word processors like Word available, but surely he could have done a more interesting job and chosen a typeface that is less ubiquitous? On the flip side, the book is well edited and free of inconsistencies and typos. Covers are so important, however, that this poor job is surely going to cost the author a lot in sales and credibility. As Lightning Sources (which is where this books was produced, makes it easy to switch covers, I hope he'll consider a redesign.
Ugly production or no, definitely worth picking up and reading.
For the experienced mystery reader he left an unnecessary early clue a little over half way through.
The Sibelius lectures came on top of this. I was interested enough in them so I simply bookmarked them and read them afterwards.
All in all, a good effort.