Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Review of Deep as Death by Katja Ivar (2020, Bitter Lemon Press)

Winter, Helsinki, 1953. Hella Mauzer, the first woman to serve in the city's homicide unit, has been forced out and prosecuted for injuring a suspect. She’s set herself up as a private investigator, but her run of bad luck continues as she’s given a large fine to pay in a short time-frame and her relationship with a radio presenter has run aground. When a prostitute is found floating in the harbour, the brothel’s madam turns to Mauzer to help. The brothel is known to have catered to the city’s elite and the head of homicide is reluctant to investigate given the role of chief of police is up for grabs. However, an ambitious inspector in the unit is reluctant to toe-the-line. Mauzer thus finds herself competing with her old boss to solve the case and as other’s start to perish, the stakes are raised. 

Deep as Death is the second book in the Hella Mauzer series set in 1950s Finland. In this outing, Mauzer has been forced out of the homicide unit and has set herself up as a private investigator. She is hired to investigate the death of a prostitute by a madam who is aware the police are dragging their heels, afraid of upsetting political leaders. As she starts to make some progress, forces seem to conspire to thwart Hella’s efforts. At the same time, a young inspector spots an opportunity to move his career forward, running with the case against his bosses wishes. Ivar tells the story from the point of view of Hella and the inspector. It works reasonably well, providing two perspectives on the case, and creating a sense of competition between the two, and there’s a good sense of place and context. The story unfolds as a who-dunnit, with a rising body count and some twists-and-turns. The denouement, however, seemed to fall apart a bit, being somewhat unconvincing, and was wrapped up very quickly leaving the story without adequate closure.

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