Two excellent novels by Jan Costin Wagner — “Ice Moon” and “Silence,” both set in Finland — have been translated into English, and they highlight the distinction between mysteries and crime novels. The German-born Wagner, who married a Finn and divides his time between Germany and Finland, has created a recurring detective, Kimmo Joentaa, and given him murder cases to solve. But the author seems less interested in springing whodunit surprises than on showing how a murder can affect those left behind: the victim’s family, the police, even the killers.
“Silence” begins in the summer of 1974, 33 years before the story’s main action. An older man befriends a younger one as a possible kindred spirit. Their common interest, unfortunately, is watching child pornography. That is reprehensible enough, but one day when they are out driving in the countryside, their behavior becomes heinous. The older man stops the car, strong-arms a girl off her bicycle and rapes and kills her while the younger man does nothing to stop him. This makes the younger one an accomplice, but at least he ends the friendship immediately. “I’m leaving now,” he announces. “We won’t be seeing each other again.”