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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

My First Murder

Leena Lehtolainen

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To purchase My First Murder

Title: My First Murder
Author: Leena Lehtolainen
Genre: Novel
Written: 1993 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 247 pages
Original in: Finnish
Availability: My First Murder - US
My First Murder - UK
My First Murder - Canada
My First Murder - India
Mon premier meurtre - France
Alle singen im Chor - Deutschland
Il mio primo omicidio - Italia
Mi primer muerto - España
  • The first in the Maria Kallio-series
  • Finnish title: Ensimmäinen murhani
  • Translated by Owen F. Witesman

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Our Assessment:

B : solid if fairly basic police procedural; decent start to a series

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 15/10/2012 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "The author does a good job integrating her dogged detective’s inner life with the murder inquiry." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       My First Murder introduces young police sergeant Maria Kallio, currently working for the Helsinki Violent Crime Unit but only in a short-term substitute posting. Still only in her late twenties, she's still very undecided about her police career: after joining the police straight out of high school she found she didn't enjoy the work all that much and she quit to go to law school; during the course of her studies she has, however, continued to temp with the police -- as she also is doing now. She's had to deal with a couple of homicides already -- "a drunk putting a knife in a drinking buddy's chest or a hatchet in his wife's head" -- but now she lands a case that might qualify as her first murder (it falling into her lap as her boss, section head Detective Kalevi Kinnunen, can't be reached as he is presumably on yet another bender, and, despite her only being on a six-month contract, she is next in line in the chain of command).
       The dead man is Tommi Peltonen -- a blast from Kallio's past. Indeed, most of the obvious and immediate suspects at the weekend-retreat where Tommi had been practicing with the Eastern Finland Student Association of Singers, are familiar faces to Kallio, former roommates and friends. For the overworked and understaffed Finnish police such conflicts of interest apparently aren't much of a problem: it's Kallio's case (and it is, indeed, murder).
       Tommi had a real way with the ladies, and as a serial seducer naturally hurt some feelings and egos among his conquests (and their boyfriends and husbands) along the way, so there are any number of people who might have wanted to whack him. The investigation proceeds predictably enough: Kallio uncovers a variety of secrets from her former friends as she interviews them, while additional clues -- and possible motives -- keep coming up. Maybe it wasn't about sex, as Tommi was demanding some money back, too (though he seemed to be rolling in suspiciously much of it anyway) -- and it also turns out that he had quite a few other questionable dealings: he seems to have gotten into the moonshine business -- and, it turns out, some more unsavory stuff as well.
       The police procedural aspect of the novel is pretty basic but certainly adequate. My First Murder is also a decent introduction to crime and policing in a different society: Finland is notoriously the most violent of the Scandinavian countries (and its proximity to the former Soviet Union made for new worries at the time this was first published (and is set), the early 1990s), and Kallio's experiences in the Violent Crime Unit -- she frequently has to deal with other, simpler cases, including a rape, even while she pursues her murder investigation -- give a good, quick glimpse overview of day-to-day Finnish crime and policing.
       Kallio is a reasonably interesting main character, a woman in a male-dominated job, short, without a romantic interest, not particularly close to her family -- a decent foundation for Lehtolainen to build a series on, even as Kallio's ambivalence about being a police officer threatens to be too prominent a feature. Still, Kallio also has something to prove, to herself and others: it's not just that she is a woman in a largely man's world, but even her old friends have some doubts, as one of them tells her (though obviously also doing so in an effort to get into Kallio's head):

We have a hard time treating you like a real police officer, and not all of us even expect you to solve anything.
       Coming to English-speaking readers nearly two decades after it was written, My First Murder isn't entirely contemporary and so the Finnish scene and situation here is slightly dated. It doesn't matter much here, but it's still noticeable that this is a novel that isn't just from, say, before Nokia's fall, but pre-dates even Nokia's success.
       My First Murder is fairly unexceptional, but it's a solid pass-time mystery with a bit of an exotic (Scandinavian) touch to it.

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 July 2013

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My First Murder: Reviews: Leena Lehtolainen: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Finnish author Leena Lehtolainen was born in 1964.

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© 2013-2021 the complete review

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