The Winter of the Lions comes into the unusual category of a Scandinavian crime novel written by a German. The writer, Jan Costin Wagner has the unusual distinction of being selected by the Goethe Institute as one of their “hand-picked Germans“, presumably because his books have been translated into quite a number of languages and he has won prizes for his fiction around the world.
In an interview, Wagner said, “In my novels I aim to encapsulate a moment of comprehension – through leaving things out. I believe that writing fiction can get so close to reality and reveal the feelings that are common to all”. He has been closely linked to Finland for many years (his wife is Finnish) and although his books have all the characteristics of “Scandi-crime”, there is something looser and less precisely defined about them than most novels in the genre, leaving questions unanswered and loose ends untied.
The Winter of the Lions was translated by the highly-regarded Anthea Bell which suggests that the publishers think it is a cut-above the run-of-the-mill crime novels.
Like most crime novels, the book has a police detective as the main character, this time a Kimmo Joentaa, who following the death of his wife returns each night to a snow-bound, lonely house to sit in silence reflecting on the past. An unexpected visitor arrives on his doorstep on Christmas Eve, a young, enigmatic woman who, earlier in the day at the police-station, has claimed to be a victim of rape. The lonely Joentaa allows her into his house and after a short conversation, “a great cry enters” Joentaa’s brain as she takes him in her arms.