Review: Pekka Hiltunen – Black Noise

Black NoiseFinnish author Pekka Hiltunen sets his thrillers in London which can make him a difficult writer to review. Is he part of the Scandinavian crime fiction wave, or should he be looked at alongside other British writers who set their books in the Capital? I thought the first of Hiltunen’s books to be translated, Cold Courage, a solid thriller although not enough was made of the hint of supernatural or ‘otherness’ of Mari, one of the protagonists. This is partially addressed in this second book which although very readable is marred by an unbelievable plot.

Videos are being loaded on YouTube which show young, gay men being kicked to death outside pubs and clubs around London. They come to the attention of ‘The Studio’ a group created by Mari to avenge wrongs that society appears unable to prevent. Mari’s latest recruit to the Studio is Lia, a fellow Finn, who has a day job as a graphic designer. Convinced that the police will never be able to discover the perpetrator of the crimes, the group investigate the murders with tragic consequences for one of their members.

This is a difficult book to review without giving away huge spoilers. If you’re planning to read the book, I suggest you skip the next part.

The initial premise is promising. Given the dominance of social media, murders that are documented on YouTube have a sense of both the possible and the luridly surreal. The problem is that the Studio discover that the killings are connected to a fan’s obsession with the rock group Queen. What follows is an almost farcical plot that concludes with the group visiting Freddie Mercury’s place of birth in Zanzibar. Hiltunen has clearly done a huge amount of research into Mercury’s life but if, like me, their music leaves you cold, it’s hard to care what happens for the rest of the book.

There are some touching moments in the novel. We learn about Mari’s experimental upbringing at the hands of socially progressive parents and the immense damage it caused her family. There are also moments of camaraderie amongst members of the Studio which suggests that there is plenty more mileage left in the series.

Like Cold Courage, Black Noise was readable and the story cracked on at a great pace. The book wasn’t for me, I’m afraid, but perhaps Queen fans might take a more benign view of the plot.

Thanks to Hesperus for my copy. The translation was by Owen F Witesman


17 thoughts on “Review: Pekka Hiltunen – Black Noise

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – As ever, thanks for the thoughtful and honest review. This one doesn’t sound like much of a one for me either. I’m a fan of rock music; I really am. And I like Freddie Mercury’s work. But even so, somehow it just doesn’t ring true, even just from the bit you’ve shared. Well, nothing can be for everyone…


  2. if, like me, their music leaves you cold

    Oh, shame, Sarah! (And you too, Puzzler and Margot.) Even someone like me who mainly listens to classical music has time for Queen.

    I must give this novel a try. First, though, Cold Courage . . .


  3. Sarah, thanks for the review. I think, videos of real-life incidents, both violent or otherwise, on social media are becoming common and there are people who actually watch them. In that sense, social media has taken perversity to a very disturbing level. I can see why it’d work well as a plot point in a novel.


  4. tracybham

    Sarah, I commented but it did not seem to take. If this is a duplicate, just delete it.

    I love Queen’s music. But that would not necessarily make this book interesting for me. Two separate things as far as I am concerned.


  5. Kathy D.

    I’m curious about the progressive upbringing and how it caused problems. So many people I know were raised in a progressive way, but not extremely so. So now this spikes my curiosity.


  6. Pingback: review roundup | Scandinavian Crime Fiction

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