Home > 2000, 21st Century, Crime Fiction, EU Book Tour, German Literature, Polar, Wagner Jan Costin > German Lit Month : Ice Moon by Jan Costin Wagner

German Lit Month : Ice Moon by Jan Costin Wagner

November 11, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

Ice Moon by Jan Costin Wagner (2003) French title : Lune de glace. Translated from the German by Stéphanie Lux.

As I’m now embarked in Miklós Bánffy’s Transylvanian Trilogy, Ice Moon by Jan Costin Wagner will be my only contribution to Caroline and Lizzy’s German Lit Month.

Ice Moon is the first instalment of the crime fiction series featuring Kimmo Joentaa, a Finish police officer. Jan Costin Wagner is German and lives half the year in Finland with his Finnish wife. This explains the Finnish setting of his books. We are in Turku, a city located in the South-West of Finland. It opens with a heartbreaking scene: Kimmo Joentaa is at the hospital where his young wife is dying of cancer. The first moments of the book are dedicated to her death and the devastation that invades every nook and corner of Kimmo’s being.

At the same time, a woman is discovered dead in her sleep. The police station in Turku is in a turmoil and a bit overwhelmed with the investigation. Against his officer’s wishes, Joentaa decides to go back to work soon after his wife’s death, partly to be occupied and tame his sadness and partly because he wants to solve this crime.

The book alternates between Kimmo’s and the murderer’s point of view. The reader knows from the start who did it and reads through the race between the police and the murderer. Will the police catch him before he commits other crimes?

I’m not too fond of books were the murderer has a mental illness or is obviously unbalanced. I think it’s an easy device. I prefer crime fiction books that either explore the evil inside of us or show how a bad decision can lead you to crime. I’d rather read about perfectly sane murderers who act badly out of greed, to protect themselves or whatever but who are not pushed by a mental illness. I think it’s more interesting to question our dark side than to read about a “crazy” serial killer. This side of Ice Moon didn’t appeal to me but it’s more a question of preference in terms of crime fiction in general than a problem with the book itself.

I was more disturbed by Kimmo Joentaa as a character. His grief consumes his days and his nights. He tries to cope with his wife’s death, with his solitude in their home. He’s a difficult man to understand. His wife grounded him in an unhealthy way. He didn’t seem to be a whole man before her and now that she’s gone, his balance is challenged. There are some disturbing passages where Kimmo enters into a weird connection with the murderer that helps him understands the criminal’s motives and modus operandi and it made me ill-at-ease. I’m not sure I want to be in Kimmo’s head for another book.

All in all, it’s well-written even if it’s cold, maybe due to the setting, maybe due to the original language. Books translated from the German often seem a little cold and uptight to me, I can’t explain why. Plot-wise it holds together but it didn’t quite work for me. It felt as weird as its book cover. There’s another review by Guy here.

Have you read it? If yes, did you like it?

  1. November 11, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Ha, interesting comment that German crime books seem a little cold and uptight to you. I wonder actually if that might also be the Finnish influence in this case. I am also thinking of course of all the humorous cosies of the ‘provincial crime series’ which are so beloved by the Germans.

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    • November 11, 2017 at 6:52 pm

      Well I don’t have much affinities with German lit, I think it’s time to accept this. Maybe it’s also due to the choices made by French publishers. Not everything makes it into French.

      PS: Have you seen the Goncourt and the Renaudot? WWII again. Triple *sigh* At least they won’t make my TBR grow.

      Liked by 1 person

      • November 12, 2017 at 1:26 am

        Ah, yes, just seen that… Nope, nor mine.

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        • November 12, 2017 at 9:28 am

          Pff. Very disappointing. I’m not saying the books are bad from a literary point of view but come on, with everything that’s happening in this digital age, can’t they write about something else?

          Liked by 1 person

  2. November 11, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    This was a disappointment after Silence. If I’d read this one first, I don’t know that I would have continued with this author. I hope you try Silence at some point as I think you’d really like it.
    I’m behind on my German month books, but I’m almost done with one I think you’d like a lot.

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    • November 12, 2017 at 9:27 am

      Your review mentioned that. The atmosphere in Ice Moon really chilled me.
      What’s the German book you’re reading? It may not be available in French.

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  3. Jonathan
    November 12, 2017 at 3:09 am

    Wow, that’s a hell of a cover. I think I’ll give the book a miss though.

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  4. November 12, 2017 at 9:45 am

    I loved all of his books. They are very special mood and tone wise. Did I care for the illness as a reason? No but I feel his novels work anyway. And they have to be cold as it’s about loneliness and grief. I think I would call some of the German crime dry not cold. Thank you for the link and participating.

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  5. November 14, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    The first of a series is often not the strongest. I’m not in the market for a series though so can probably afford to skip this. Shame it didn’t connect with you better, but I hope the Banffy’s are proving stronger since I have those and want to read them at some point.

    I agree with you on illness as motive – it’s not very interesting.

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    • November 14, 2017 at 8:02 pm

      The Bánffy reminds me of War and Peace, minus the lectures on the art of war. Fantastic read so far.

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  1. December 5, 2017 at 11:03 am

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