Now, Finland's entire Jewish population is no bigger than a couple of good-sized Long Island bar-mitzvahs, so it's no shock that Jews would be somewhat exotic figures there. Nykänen has Kafka react with head-shaking amusement to well-meaning questions about Jews, and the deadpan humor is of a piece with what Nykänen did so well in Raid and the Blackest Sheep.
Kafka's Jewish identity figures also in the crimes that drive this story, a series of killings of Arabs that eventually involves drugs, trains, cars, Israeli diplomats, the Mossad intelligence service, and friends and others from Kafka's own past. To say too much more would risk spoilers, except that things, as in all good mysteries, are not what they seem, even when you think you've figured out what's what and who's who.
The novel's title refers to the Jewish high holidays, the Days of Awe, when observant Jews repent of their sins. Nykänen presumably intends moral weight, but a character named Kafka needs no help from the calendar to get introspective. The story could have been set any time in the year.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012