Review: ‘Cold Courage’ by Pekka Hiltunen

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With the successful trend of European thrillers comes the translation Cold Courage by Pekka Hiltunen. When a Latvian woman is brutally murdered in the middle of London, Lia, a Finnish graphic designer, is more than usually affected by the event despite not knowing the victim. On her quest to find out what happened, she encounters Mari and the Studio, an enigmatic group attempting to deliver its own justice on the world. Will Lia succeed in discovering the truth or will she lose herself and her morality along the way?
Relatively new to this particular genre, I expected to find out what all the fuss surrounding psychological thrillers was about. Hiltunen has certainly succeeded in creating a dark murder story that at times becomes quite graphic in its description of the killings whilst still keeping the realistic element of modern day London. The setting is easy to relate to and Hiltunen clearly knows London well enough to be able to recreate it accurately in his psychological thriller.
Yet whilst Hiltunen’s novel reads well and is intriguing, Cold Courage ended up being a little lukewarm for me. The main problem is the characters. Hiltunen’s character-building is very precise and even now I could tell you the foibles of each particular character, yet I felt little if any emotion for any of them. The murdered woman fades into the background despite her death forming the whole story, Mari is something of a control freak and Lia is far too gullible and subordinate to sympathise with. The result was that I read Cold Courage with a sort of detachment, which for a psychological thriller is disappointing.
It was also irritating to have Lia’s thoughts constantly interspersed throughout the main text in italics, which felt like a flat attempt to put the ‘psychological’ in ‘psychological thriller’. The brief insights into Mari’s thoughts through short chapters written in the present tense were also unnecessary. The mystery and intrigue surrounding her character would have been better maintained without these excerpts, which added nothing to the plot and only increased a dislike of her.
My first foray into this genre wasn’t what I expected it to be. Cold Courage, whilst having a good plot, certainly left me feeling cold. The conclusion was rushed and left far too much white space at the end – Mari’s character was understandably left open but Lia’s future was as equally uncertain and lonely. It was difficult to feel any sort of closure at the end of the book.
Although not the worst the novel I’ve ever read, Cold Courage didn’t quite ignite for me. An interesting read, but perhaps meant for the avid fan of this particular genre.

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