A detective sent in disgrace from the big city to a posting in the remote backwoods is a trope in crime fiction, but not one you usually meet in the first of a series. Yet that is what we have here with Hella Mauzer, and that before the first page has even turned!

It is 1952, the height of the Cold War, and Mauzer, ostensibly the first female Inspector in the Helsinki Homicide Unit, has been banished (sorry, reassigned) to Lapland on the Finnish/Russian border for her sins. The one that caused the banishment I will not reveal, but I will say she has many others. She is stubborn, pig-headed and downright rude. At one point she is so obnoxious to the people she is lodging with, all I can say is that she is lucky they are better Christians than I!!! (Seriously she wouldn’t have had time to see the door, before she’d have found herself on the other side of it!)

Anyway her stubbornness pays dividends when she refuses to accept that an old man has simply been lost to the snow. Why would such an experienced Laplander have allowed that to happen particularly when he is his grandson’s sole carer? Her new boss allows her to her to take a few days vacation to go investigate. If there is no evidence of foul play, she must return.

Well, she certainly uncovers traces of something truly heinous, much bigger than one man’s death, that plays to the political paranoias of the Cold War but nothing she can prove in the time allocated. Will Mauzer being Mauzer return to barracks as ordered? You already know the answer to that …

This disobedience leads to all kinds of bother. For the (rather repulsive) man who is infatuated with her, for Mauzer herself, a woman in the 1950’s man’s world. (Something that becomes very apparent in the second novel.) But here and now it is a matter of life and death, particularly for the unborn child of the Christian who didn’t show Mauzer the door …

I wouldn’t say that Evil Things is perfect. I have a few issues with the contradictions in Mauzer’s character. For someone as whip-smart and unscrupulous enough to take advantage of her unwelcome admirer, she displays a remarkable naïvety in the novel’s denouement with regard to the political powers that be. Turn the page and her quick thinking is remarkably cunning …

Regardless of that I dove straight into the second novel, Deep as Death, in which another of Mauzer’s flaws is made manifest – a married man named Steve. Now that she is back in Helsinki – working as a PI (the consequences of her behaviour in the previous novel) – she has reunited with the lover she had been pining for so much during her exile. It’s not a smooth romance and when he becomes implicated in the series of murders and attempted murders, then her loyalty is tested to the limit.

As is her professional integrity …

There is some clever play and mirroring between Mauzer and her counterpart, police inspector Mustonen in Deep as Death. The novel is divided between their viewpoints of the same investigation. Both narratives are first person, which I felt a curious choice. It means you have to pay very close attention to the chapter headings! Because once the novel starts wandering into grey areas, you might start attributing dubious actions to the wrong person.

There’s a third investigator too. Anita, a trainee, keen, naïve and impatient to get into the thick of things. A help, a hindrance? Either way as stubborn as Mauzer. Oblivious to the many “this is not a game” warnings she is given.

If the first novel was more political in its resolution, Deep as Death is more personal. Definitely not standalone. Start at the beginning with this series, which I believe is conceived as a trilogy. There are some loose ends – particularly about Mauzer’s past – for a third novel to resolve. I can’t wait!