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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Nights of Awe

Harri Nykänen

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To purchase Nights of Awe

Title: Nights of Awe
Author: Harri Nykänen
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 252 pages
Original in: Finnish
Availability: Nights of Awe - US
Nights of Awe - UK
Nights of Awe - Canada
Nights of Awe - India
Ariel. Mord vor Jom Kippur - Deutschland
  • Finnish title: Ariel
  • Translated by Kristian London

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Our Assessment:

B : overbaked, but some clever premises and twists

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 12/3/2012 .
Die Welt . 30/4/2010 Anna-Dorothea Ludewig

  From the Reviews:
  • "Professional responsibility and ethnic affiliation clash in Nykänen’s intriguing first novel (.....) The resolution will satisfy noir fans." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Erschreckend ist, dass Nykänen antisemitische Stereotype ebenso selbstverständlich bemüht, wie es Glauser in den 1930er Jahren getan hat. (...) Eine besondere Relevanz bekommen die antisemitischen Tendenzen in diesem Roman aber durch die jüdische Identität des Kommissars, denn was könnte legitimierender sein als der Blick eines Juden auf das Judentum und Israel." - Anna-Dorothea Ludewig, Die welt

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:

       Nights of Awe has a pretty catchy premise: the narrator -- with the catchy name Ariel Kafka ("For some reason, my name stuck in people's heads", he observes ...) -- is a detective in Helsinki's Violent Crime unit, a Jewish policeman in a country with very, very few Jews (reportedly only about 1500). The case he's called out on here is one that begins with the deaths of some Arabs and among the concerns soon enough is whether or not the threat al-Qaeda et al. pose has now reached even Finland.
       Finland is notoriously by far the bloodthirstiest of the Scandinavian countries, with a homicide rate considerably higher than any of the other Nordic states (even, of course, as it is very small compared with the murderous American rate); nevertheless, the homicides tend to be of the most pedestrian sort: the vast majority involve alcoholized males getting out of hand. Nights of Awe offers something way different -- all the way up to international conspiracy. It also offers a body count that's the equivalent of a couple of week's of all of Finland's usual quota. All in all, quite a stretch for a small thriller.
       Kafka isn't very active in the local Jewish community, but he has some connections to it, and his brother, a successful lawyer, is more involved. The local synagogue comes to him with some concerns, wondering whether or not the case is connected to them: they fear possible threats -- and the fact that there's reportedly a very high-profile foreign visitor who is supposed to visit in the near future suggests a strong motive for certain parties to target them. And then there's Kafka's childhood friend, Dan Kaplan, who emigrated to Israel years earlier and seems to have become quite successful there, who seems to be involved in some way .....
       The unusual deaths and various connections make for quite a tangled web. Drugs, business dealings (shady and otherwise), people who aren't quite who they say there, and religion all figure in the case. It makes for a very tangled web, and it takes a while to separate the threads and figure out what really happened here, and why.
       It's a reasonably clever thriller-plot, with a few nice twists -- especially the resolution. It is, however, a lot for a standard 250-page first-in-a-series thriller to contain; this story would have benefitted from a lot more space and a more leisurely pace. The jarringly high body count also seems excessive, with too little follow-through: murder and mayhem almost simply for their own sake. Kafka -- promising: "I'm first and foremost a police officer, second a Finn, and only third a Jew" -- is an intriguing enough figure to base a series around, but Nykänen overextends himself in this first installment, jumping way in the deep end, and struggling to stay afloat there, making for a lot of splashing about.

- M.A.Orthofer, 3 March 2012

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Nights of Awe: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Finnish author Harri Nykänen was born in 1953.

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